FamilyLife Today® Podcast

Are You a People Pleaser?

with Lou Priolo | April 30, 2008
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Are you constantly worried about what others think of you? Today on the broadcast, Lou Priolo, a Christian counselor and instructor at the Birmingham Theological Seminary, tells Dennis Rainey why we need to be more concerned about pleasing God rather than pleasing people. Lou furthers shares how changing our focus from “what will they think of me” to “how can I minister to them” will change our attitude and our life.

  • Show Notes

  • About the Host

  • About the Guest

  • Are you constantly worried about what others think of you? Today on the broadcast, Lou Priolo, a Christian counselor and instructor at the Birmingham Theological Seminary, tells Dennis Rainey why we need to be more concerned about pleasing God rather than pleasing people. Lou furthers shares how changing our focus from “what will they think of me” to “how can I minister to them” will change our attitude and our life.

  • Dave and Ann Wilson

    Dave and Ann Wilson are hosts of FamilyLife Today®, FamilyLife’s nationally-syndicated radio program. Dave and Ann have been married for more than 38 years and have spent the last 33 teaching and mentoring couples and parents across the country. They have been featured speakers at FamilyLife’s Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway since 1993 and have also hosted their own marriage conferences across the country. Cofounders of Kensington Church—a national, multicampus church that hosts more than 14,000 visitors every weekend—the Wilsons are the creative force behind DVD teaching series Rock Your Marriage and The Survival Guide To Parenting, as well as authors of the recently released book Vertical Marriage (Zondervan, 2019). Dave is a graduate of the International School of Theology, where he received a Master of Divinity degree. A Ball State University Hall of Fame quarterback, Dave served the Detroit Lions as chaplain for 33 years. Ann attended the University of Kentucky. She has been active alongside Dave in ministry as a speaker, writer, small-group leader, and mentor to countless wives of professional athletes. The Wilsons live in the Detroit area. They have three grown sons, CJ, Austin, and Cody, three daughters-in-law, and a growing number of grandchildren.

Are you constantly worried about what others think of you?

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Are You a People Pleaser?

With Lou Priolo
April 30, 2008
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Bob: As parents, we all want to raise children who are pleasant or pleasing, but we don't want to raise children who are pleasers.  Here's Lou Priolo.

Lou: The one thing that parents can do to protect their children from peer pressure is to teach them as early as they can in life to fear God, to long for God's approval.  It will do more to protect them from being influenced by other people, and the more years I spend in the ministry the more I am convinced that peer pressure is a bigger problem than I originally realized.

Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Wednesday, April 30th.  Our host is the president of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine.  We'll talk today about what we can do as parents to point our children in the direction of living to please God.  Stay tuned.

And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us.  Are you going to keep score as we go through this?

Dennis: You know, I don't think I will.

Bob: No, I want you to keep score.  I want to see whether you're more of a people-pleaser than I am.  I think we should both keep score, and we'll see …

Dennis: Well, that means we have to make it through all 20 questions.

Bob: Oh, well, we may not be able to do that.

Dennis: But, you know, what we will do – we will post these 20 questions, which are an inventory, kind of a diagnostic inventory to see if you're a people-pleaser. 

Bob: Yeah?

Dennis: We're going to post that on our Internet website.

Bob:, you can go there and click the red "Go" button that you see in the middle of the screen, and that will take you to the area of the site where these questions are, and the quiz is 20 questions to help you assess whether you have a need or a desire for the affirmation of others, which can be okay …

Dennis: Or it can be unhealthy.

Bob: That's right.

Dennis: No doubt about it.  We have someone here, the diagnostic doctor of people-pleasers, Lou Priolo joins us again on FamilyLife Today.  Welcome back, Doctor.

Lou: You're – welcome back.


Dennis: I haven't seen Lou lack many words on our broadcast.

Bob: It was that buildup you gave him, that diagnostic doctor thing.

Lou: I guess just thank you would have worked.

Dennis: Actually, his real title is director of the Center for Biblical Counseling at the Eastwood Presbyterian Church in Montgomery, Alabama – you'll notice the "t" this time.  Lou has written a number of books.  He also speaks around the country, and I can promise you this – that as the diagnostic doctor, he will ultimately take you back to the big book.

Bob: Yes, he will.

Dennis: The Bible.

Bob: That's right, and the questions in this inventory are designed to help us get a gauge on whether we're living our lives with the applause of men in mind or the approval of God.  You know, I keep remembering what Elizabeth Elliot said about her husband, Jim.  Do you remember the degree he said he was going after?

Lou: I quote it in the book – AUG degree.

Bob: Yeah, he wanted an AUG degree, which comes out of 2 Timothy 2.  He wanted to be Approved Unto God, a workman who is not ashamed, and that's really what should be the aspiration of all of our lives, right?

Lou: Exactly.  Of course, I never met Jim Elliot but I have a hard time believing he ever struggled to any significant degree with being a people-pleaser.

Bob: And I've met his wife, Elizabeth, and she didn't struggle with it very much, either.

Dennis: No, she didn't.  You have a people-pleasing inventory that we've kind of chuckled about here, but you have a scale on each of these questions where you need to give yourself five points, four, three, two, one, and five is that you never or hardly ever struggle with this issue; four means seldom; three means sometimes; two means frequently; and one means always or almost always.

Bob: A whole lot, right.

Dennis: So if you score real high on this, we may have a lie detector test that we want to give you.

Bob: Just to verify, that's right.

Dennis: Let's go to number one.  "I listen with attentiveness when others discuss what pleases or displeases them."  What about that, Doctor?

Lou: Well, the people-pleaser is so intent on gaining approval that he spends much of his time studying other people – he studies their interests, their aversions, their words, their inflections, their body language.  Not because he wants to minister to them, mind you, he studies them because he wants to figure out what it is that pleases them and mostly what displeases them because that's the last thing he wants to do.

Bob: And, again, we're talking about something that goes to an extreme, because it can be a healthy thing to be aware of the moods or the feelings of others.  I mean, we'd coach people to have a healthy sense of what's going on around you, but this is a person who is always look around going, "Is she pleased?" "Is he displeased?"  Right?

Lou: You walk down the hall, you see somebody new, you wave to them and say "Hi," maybe issue a quick prayer, "I wonder what God's doing in his life," you know, that's the way a God pleaser would think.  A people-pleaser is going to be looking at that person as they are walking down the hall just to see if there's eye contact or if he has any clues that might disclose the extent to which this person likes or dislikes him.

Dennis: I think this person also might wear themselves out emotionally worrying about the other person's response to everything they're doing.

Lou: It is, I mean, it's a fear of man's displeasure, and it is a worry problem, sure.

Dennis: Okay, number two – "I strive to be politically correct more than biblically correct."

Lou: Well, this has to do with people making decisions in life to please other people.  I mean, we think about politically correct in the sense of political issues, but even in small issues, we struggle with decisions that might be unpopular.

Dennis: And, you know what?  I'm watching a young generation starting out their marriages and families today, and I think there are a lot of them really caught up with where they shop, how they dress, what kind of car they drive, where they live, and they're living their lives for the approval of others, and they're making decisions around their career and where their family is spending time based upon other people's response rather than the Bible and biblical values. 

And so when we talk about family values, if you really want to be a pleaser of God, it will impact your decision-making.

Bob: Well, and let me give you a scenario and see how you would coach somebody here, because this happened a number of months ago when we aired a series on FamilyLife Today where Dennis was talking about the use of profanity in the culture, and guarding your tongue.

We had a number of people who wrote in and said, "I’m never sure exactly what to do when I hear somebody using profanity.  I don't know if I should speak up, I don't know if I should just overlook it, I don't know if I should ignore it.  Is it the right thing to confront or do I let it pass?  And I'm thinking of this politically correct versus biblically correct.  Is there a right answer in every situation there?

Lou: No, I think it's a contextual situation.  Certainly, when I have people in my office who are professing Christians, and they take the Lord's name in vain, I absolutely nail them, you know, that's not allowed in my office.

But sometimes when you're dealing with unbelievers, it's not as clear as to how you should approach that.

Bob: Yeah, a woman who wrote in, she said, "I work in an office where there are mechanics in the office, and they use this kind of language all the time."

Lou: Well, see, I think that's the point at which something probably should be said, even when you're dealing with an unbeliever.  When they are repeatedly taking the Lord's name in vain, I think you do have a just cause to go to them and, again, realizing that they are not going to be able, in all likelihood, to fully appreciate it because they don't have the spirit of God living inside of them.  I do think there is a time and a place to go to them and saying, "Listen, I am a Christian, and your using my Savior's name that way is really an offensive thing.  Would you please try to be careful from this point forward?"

Bob: And that's where you're talking about the courage to be biblically correct instead of politically correct.

Lou: I remember one time – I used to live in New York, and my pastor in New York City was at a meeting where they were looking to buy some office equipment for the church, and one of the men who was running this meeting continually took the Lord's name in vain.  And, finally, my pastor, who was not a people-pleaser at all, very nicely but rather firmly confronted the man and asked him not to take the Lord's name in vain.

Well, immediately, the man was apologetic, and the bottom line was he ended up giving the church, like, thousands and thousands and thousands of dollars' worth of office material and other things that the church could use.

Dennis: Amazing.  I want to move on to number three – "I like to go fishing for compliments," and as one who wants to be honest here without taking the test and telling you what my numbers are, I admit that, on occasion, when someone has given me a compliment, Doctor, that I admit that I have said, "Excuse me, what did you say?"

Bob: Could you repeat …

Dennis: Would you just please restate that again in another way?

So let's talk about this for a second.  Someone …

Bob: We've all done this, right?

Lou: Sure, I'm guilty more than I care to admit.  Well, basically, fishing for compliments is sort of manipulating someone into a compliment.  It's attempting to evoke an admiring comment from that person without really embarrassing yourself.  It's sort of a clever way to get them to compliment you.

Bob: So what's an example of how somebody would fish for a compliment, other than Dennis's "Would you repeat that, please?"

Lou: Well, some people sort of intentionally put themselves down in the presence of others in the hope that the people who hear them will disagree.  "Oh, that was one of the worst performances I've ever had."

Dennis: "I did terrible."

Lou: "Oh, I was awful.  I can't believe I did so poorly."

Dennis: And they know they didn't do a lousy job.

Lou: They're just manipulating …

Bob: But they're just begging …

Lou: Right.

Dennis: They are wanting someone to disagree with them and tell them what they hope is the glowing truth.

Bob: Okay, so is it wrong for me to do this?  Because on Sunday, after I've taught Sunday school and we're riding home in the car, I'll say to Mary Ann, "So how'd you think Sunday school went?"

Now, part of me wants an objective evaluation, but part of me is just really hoping she'll go, "It was amazing.  That was – I got saved again."  You know?

Lou: Probably the pride behind that was – you know, Bob, it's like so much in the Christian life.  So many times people come into the counseling office, and they say, "Well, is this a sin?"  And I have to say to them, "Well, tell me what your motive is, because on the surface it may or may not be a sin.  It's not necessarily – it's really your motive, and that's what we're talking about.

This whole thing about people-pleasing has to do with your motives.  Do you long to please God more than people or do you long to please people more than God?

Bob: One of the statements on your inventory that you rank on a 1-to-5 scale is, "I gossip about others to people whom I believe will be pleased with me for giving them such luscious tidbits of information."  There are some folks who will reward you if you spill the scoop, right?

Lou: Yeah, they are inordinately curious, and they just sort of, you know, live off of the dirt on other people, and so it might be sort of a conscious reward or an unconscious reward; it might be a verbal reward, but the person who is giving the information somehow gets some feedback that the person to whom he is gossiping is very pleased with him.

Dennis: Okay, here is another one – "I worry about what people think of me."  Just a preoccupation of walking into a room and feeling like everybody is looking at me, people are thinking strange things about me or having dinner with a group of people and leaving the meal just wondering, "I wonder what people really thought about what I said and what I did over the dinner?"

Lou: No. Think about how a person who really is concerned about God's glory might walk into that room.  Rather than asking questions to himself like, "I don't know what that person thinks of me.  I'd better be careful that I don't say too much, or I'm going to make a fool of myself and put my foot in my mouth."  That person is going to look at the individuals and be more concerned about how to minister to them.  I wonder what God is doing in that person's life?  I wonder if there are any needs that he has that God has given me resources to meet?  How can I minister to that person? 

The person who is more concerned about pleasing God is really going to be more concerned about ministering to other people than he is concerned about his own reputation.

Bob: That's thinking about others rather than thinking of yourself.

Dennis: Your favorite verse, Bob.

Bob: It's down to Philippians 2:3, which says that we're to "Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourself."  That's an antidote to being a people-pleaser.

Lou: Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory but in humility of mind, later we manage seeing others as more important than himself.

Dennis: No doubt about it.  Okay, here's another one, and I think this is a big one.  On your inventory you say one of the areas that can be a reflection that we're a people-pleaser is I avoid conflicts rather than to resolve them.

Lou: We have the saying I like to use with my counselees.  It's called "Problems were made for solving," and a political is really a peace-lover.  He thinks he is a peacemaker, but he is a peace-lover.

Dennis: What's the different?

Lou: A peace-lover is someone who is so afraid of conflict that he is going to run away from it.  He is not going to follow the Scripture that says you have to confront this issue.  You have to try biblically to take the initiative to resolve this conflict.

A peacemaker is someone who knows that the only way to resolve this conflict is to go through it.  The only way for there to be peace, which is really the antithesis of conflict, right, and the result of conflict, hopefully.  I mean, hopefully, the result of us having a conflict is that ultimately there will be a peace. 

A peacemaker is someone who is willing to face the conflict, to have the conflict, even to initiate the conflict so that there might be the ultimate peace between believers.

Bob: Yeah, there are some folks who think if I can somehow pretend like this didn't happen or ignore it, just make it go away, then everything will be fine.  But the reality is you don't really have peace at that point, you just have an unresolved conflict that piled up over in the corner somewhere that may spring back to life at some point later on in the relationship.

Lou: You neither have internal peace in those cases nor peace between brothers, and the Bible talks about both of those kinds of peace.

Bob: I thought this was an interesting statement on your list of diagnosing your people-pleasing tendencies – "I take unnecessary precautions to protect my good name."  Now, the Bible talks about the value of a good name, and we ought to protect our good name, shouldn't we?

Lou: Let me say first that not only should we protect our own name, but we ought to protect each other's good name.  I've got this old book in my library, it's like 300 years old, I don't even know who the author is, but it's a book on communication, and he's got different communication sins listed, and one of them is called the "sin of detraction."

Now, we don't use that word anymore, but basically when you detract from somebody, you take something away from them, and his whole point is that when we gossip about other people, when we slander them, we detract from their good name, and his point is we should be zealous not only for our own reputation but also for the good reputations of others.

But I have known people who have gone to ridiculous extremes in order to protect their reputation.  They hear secondhand that someone has said something about them so rather than realizing what it says in Ecclesiastes that you should try to overlook those kinds of things because you know in your own heart you've done the same thing many times, they'll get on the phone and hunt this person down and half the time find out that it really wasn't said exactly the way that it was, and they are just so consumed with their own reputation, they waste time and effort rather than giving their reputation to God and trusting him to deal with second and third-hand information, these people will hunt down every nuance of a report even though it may not be accurate.

Dennis: And, you know, as we're going through these, some of these may cause us to think about our children, this next one does, but I wouldn't want our audience to miss this thinking that this is just a teenage problem.  This is an adult problem as well. 

"I give in to peer pressure rather than standing up for what I know is right."

Lou: You know, Dennis, as I wrote this book, I couldn't help but thinking over and over again how that perhaps the one thing that parents can do to protect their children from peer pressure is to teach them as early as they can in life to fear God and to protect them from being influenced by other people.  And the more years I spend in the ministry, the more I am convinced that peer pressure is a bigger problem than I originally realized.  It is huge.  The Bible has lots and lots and lots of things to say about influence. 

"Don't be misled," it says.  "Bad company corrupts good morals."  "He who walks with wise men will be wise but the companion of fools will be destroyed."  "Make no friendship with an angry man, and with a furious man you shall not go."  Why?  "Lest you learn his ways and get a snare through your soul."

Dennis: And here is where I'd like to give an advertisement for the bestselling book of all – the Bible – especially the book found in the Bible called the Book of Proverbs.

Lou: Amen.

Dennis: Proverbs is a great book to teach your children to fear God and to put people in their proper perspective, to respect them, to minister to them, to think about them, but to always be evaluating, "Is it God you're pleasing or is it men you're trying to please?"

Lou: And another thing I love about the Book of Proverbs is you've got all these different types of people – you've got the fool, you've got the wise person, you've to the strange woman, you've got the sluggard and the sloth, and you've got all these types of people.  And if we can teach our children what these people look like – I mean, here we're talking about this whole book that we're discussing, the people-pleaser is about being a man-pleaser.  It's the type of person that the Bible identifies. 

Well, you've got these all through the Bible, these types of people, characterological descriptions of who people are.  Well, the Book of Proverbs has got dozens of kinds of people that if we expose our children to, we can help them, again, realize who they are dealing with and the necessary precautions they need to take and the instructions they need to have in order to interact with them.

Bob: Lou, help me out here.  Am I thinking of – was it Peter and John in Acts who made the statement, "We must obey God and not you men," when they were brought before the Sanhedrin, is that right?

Lou: Yes.

Bob: You know, I think about the fact that it wasn't long prior to that that when Peter was asked, "Weren't you with that guy, the Messiah?  Weren't you with Jesus?"  He said, "No, I don't even know Him."  What a transformation from a guy who feared men around a fire to a guy who was hauled into court and said, "I've got to do what God wants me to do."

Lou: And I forget, but was it not Peter and John who also argued amongst themselves who was going to have the most glory in heaven?

Bob: Yeah, James and John were in the argument, that's right.

Lou: James and John, there you go.  So, again, even the Apostles struggled with this, to some extent, at certain points in their life.  Then you have Peter who, in one place, he played the hypocrite along with Barnabas because he wanted to please people rather than God.  He was afraid of the Jews.

Bob: That's where Paul comes and rebukes him in Galatians and says, "Peter," and Peter has to own up and say, "Yeah, you were right."

Lou: Yeah, I mean, in front of everybody, in the presence of them all, Paul rebukes Peter.

Bob: So we can all fall to this fear of man, this desire to be a people-pleaser.  I don't know how these guys would have done on your inventory, if they'd taken the inventory that's found in your book, "Pleasing People," but I think depending on different days, I'm going to score differently on this inventory than I would on other days.

Dennis: You know, as human beings, we have different needs on different days, and that's why I'd exhort parents, get in the Book, get in the Bible, and also pick up a copy of Lou's book and get in this one as well, and begin to really evaluate how you're training your children to withstand peer pressure.

You know, the Book of Proverbs has 31 chapters in it.  It's almost perfect for a school year.  You may miss a week or two getting together, but one day a week get together and read a chapter of the Book of Proverbs to your preteen, your teen.  You can't go through this book enough and talk about the people who are going to seek to influence them as they grow up and how you make wise biblical choices in the fear of God.

Bob: Yeah, which, in the end, as Proverbs says, "The beginning of wisdom is the fear of the Lord."

Dennis: And I want to thank you, Lou, for your writing and how your book is biblically anchored around the right stuff.  It does begin and end with the fear of God and talks about the love of God and the grace of God and the compassion of God, but you constantly point those you counsel and those you write to through your writings.

Back to this anchoring principle – if you're a people-pleaser, that you need to, first and foremost be a pleaser of God.  I want to thank you for being on FamilyLife Today.

Lou: Well, it's been my pleasure to be here and thank you so much for the invitation.

Bob: We've got copies of the book in our FamilyLife Resource Center, and I want to encourage our listeners to get a copy of this book not just for themselves.  This would be a good book to read through with a teenager; maybe you're involved with some other men or women in a mentoring kind of relationship.  Here would be a book for you to go through together.

It's called "Pleasing People" by Lou Priolo.  You'll find information about it on our website at When you get to the home page of our website, on the right side of the screen you'll see a box that says "Today's Broadcast," and if you click where it says "Learn More" in that box, it will take you to the area of the site where you can get information about Lou's book, you can order a copy of it online, if you'd like.

In fact, I was thinking about an interview we did not long ago, Dennis, with Paul Coughlin who wrote the book, "No More Mr. Nice Guy," and it really is a similar theme to what Lou has been addressing, and there is information on our website about Paul's book as well, if our listeners are interested in listening to those broadcasts, you can find links to those on our website.

Go to, and click on the right side of the screen where it says "Today's Broadcast," or if it's just easier to pick up the phone and call 1-800-FLTODAY, and have it all taken care of, you can do that – 1-800-358-6329.  Someone on our team will answer the phone and can make arrangements to have the resources that you need sent out to you.

Let me, real quickly, Dennis, add a word of thanks here to those folks who have already started to contact us here at FamilyLife.  They have heard about the matching gift opportunity that has been made available to us.  Between now and May 31st, we've had some folks who have agreed that they would match any donation we receive from a radio listener, and we've had folks who have called and said we want to make sure you guys can take full advantage of this matching gift, and we were planning to make a donation, anyway, so this gives us a little additional incentive to go ahead and make it right now.

Any donation we receive between now and the end of May is going to be matched on a dollar-for-dollar basis up to a total of $635,000, and we're hoping to hear from as many of our listeners as possible so we can keep FamilyLife Today on this station and on other stations all around the country.

If you can make a donation to our ministry online or by calling 1-800-FLTODAY, we would love to hear from you.  All your donations are tax deductible, and you just need to know we appreciate your ongoing financial support of this ministry.

Well, tomorrow we are going to talk to Leslie Fields who, when she was 42, got a surprise when the doctor said, "You're going to have another baby," and then when she was 45, it happened again.  We'll talk about what happens when you have a surprise child on tomorrow's program.  I hope you can be with us for that.

I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team.  On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine.  We'll see you back tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.

FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas – help for today; hope for tomorrow.  


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