This week I read Mark 6:14-29 with my son: John the Baptist’s Head is Cut Off. (Who says the Bible is boring? Great reading just after eating breakfast, right?) In this passage we learn that King Herod knew John was a holy man who did what was right, and though what John said puzzled Herod, he still liked to listen to him. (20)
A mere 6 verses later, however, Herod made a decision to serve John’s head on a platter.
How did that happen?
Herod was married to Herodias and Herodias had a daughter. When the daughter danced at Herod’s birthday party he foolishly and publicly played a form of “truth or dare.”
Never a wise thing to do.
In front of his party guests, Herod blindly promised to do whatever the daughter of Herodias wanted, up to half his kingdom. (22, 23) Unfortunately the daughter consulted her mom, Herodias, who hated John the Baptist. Following her mom’s advice, the daughter of Herodias asked for the head of John the Baptist on a platter.
- The man Herod considered holy.
- The man Herod enjoyed listening to.
The king was very upset.
So what does a man do? A king? A leader? Things are already embarrassing, so what’s a little bit more? Back out of the whole silly deal and leave the party, still humiliated, but having done the right thing.
But he [Herod] thought of his promise and his dinner guests. So he did not want to say no to the girl. He sent a man right away to bring John’s head. (26-27)
- Afraid of the crowd.
- A weak man.
- A people pleaser.
I posted about another such man on Good Friday this year, Pilate.
He was the leader that knowingly turned over an innocent man (Jesus) to be crucified in order to please a crowd. He knew Jesus was a holy man just like Herod knew John the Baptist was, but wishing to satisfy the crowd, washed his hands of the ordeal and delivered Jesus to be crucified (Matthew 27:25; Mark 15:15; Luke 23: 22, 23; John 19:14-16).
- Are we really much different?
- Do we violate our conscience to please a crowd?
- Do we consider what other people expect of us before we consider what God expects of us?
I hope not, but I must face the truth about my human nature.
I have the same capabilities as Herod or Pilate without the intervention of Jesus Christ and the transformative power of the Holy Spirit in my life. And when I succumb to people pleasing, I look as weak as these two men were when they did the same. The temptation to please people surrounds each of us, no matter who we are.
The temptation to people-please is part of a democracy.
I love my country, but the voting process in a democratic government tempts a candidate to people-please. Unless they please me, how will he or she get my vote? The temptation to please the crowd simply must be present, even if a candidate resists such thoughts.
The temptation to people-please is part of a society with internet.
Social media and the internet increases the number of people who can find out about me or read about me. Therefore, my “online presence” is a concern, as it is now for every one of us. Individuals who meet us at the bus stop can now go home and Google us. Hiring managers deciding whether or not to interview us do the same.
As a teacher, students can climb online and say whatever they want to about me, especially on a particular site. I can’t bear to look at it. I only do so about two times a year when I am feeling brave, just so I know the truth, but it freaks me out.
- The anonymity bothers me.
- The permanency is terrifying.
Therefore, people pleasing thoughts cross my mind. Ridiculous thoughts.
When I am tackling a dishonesty issue, making a grade decision or handling a complaint, this site sometimes comes to mind, tempting me to act in such a way as to protect my ratings instead of run my classroom with utmost integrity before God.
I cannot stop those fleeting thoughts to please people.
I learned a saying in college that I still recite: You can’t stop a bird from flying over your head, but you can stop it from building a nest in your hair. I resist people pleasing thoughts. I do not believe I have acted even in one moment to please the classroom crowd, but have the thoughts crossed my mind?
God asks us to always consider the crowd, but we are never to live for the crowd.
He commands us in Romans 12:18 to, If possible, live in peace with everyone. Do that as much as you can. (Romans 12:18) We are to consider the ramifications of our actions in everything we do. But the purpose of doing so is to please God, not men. The purpose is to protect the reputation of God, not men. As Philippians 1:27 aptly reminds us: No matter what happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.
If what God wants lines up with what people want, great.
But when what people want opposes what God wants, God must win.
Each of us is to live for an audience of One.
This is my mantra for myself: If God is happy with me, I am happy with me.
This is my mantra for my kids: If God is happy with you, I am happy with you.
Even if the entire rest of the world is not happy with me. Even if my family does not think I measure up. Even if my students don’t like how I handle a situation. If God is happy with me, I am happy with me.
Let’s aim to please God when we get up in the morning, not people.
Funny thing is, if we do that, we will end up pleasing more people anyway. As Galatians 5:22-23 says, The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy,peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.
Loose translation of the last sentence: Who doesn’t like someone who lives like that anyway??
Our sweet daughter graduated with a degree in Interdisciplinary Studies, summa cum laude. The woman earned a 3.98.
The beautiful skyline on her cap made her find-able among the throngs of graduates, 6,900 strong.
What a celebration!
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