In Mere Christianity, C. S. Lewis identifies pride as the root sin from which all others grow. Lou Priolo seems to affirm this in his book Pleasing People, or at least he would affirm it specifically in relation to the sin of people-pleasing. This sin goes by many names, its most recent being "codependency."
"But isn't codependency a psychological condition rather than a sin?" some will ask. Not according to Priolo, who identifies it as an idolatrous desire for the approval of others. While this does have profound psychological implications, it also means that the cure is a matter of the heart rather than medications or therapy.
A substantial part of this book is comprised of characterizations of people-pleasing from a biblical perspective, but first Priolo shows the ways in which pleasing others can be positive (wanting the respect of our spouses and children, for example), and that it turns to sin when these desires become inordinate and consume us. He also shows how fear of disapproval can keep us from sharing our Christian faith, make us addicted to peace at all costs, and lead us into a host of other sins.
There's a checklist near the beginning to help readers assess their enslavement to people-pleasing, lists of the dangers of loving the approval of others, clear explications of how loving to please others is really a desire for self-affirmation and a form of pride, and warnings about how codependency leads us away from a right relationship with God and affects us in many other ways.
What's the solution? For Priolo, the only way out of the hole that is people-pleasing is to please God through faith. Only by doing what God wants will we be able to please others, and only then will we do so for the right reasons. Priolo does offer some practical advice for breaking free of the bondage of this particular sin, but the emphasis is on faith, prayer, Bible-reading, and worship.
Pleasing People is full of quotations, mostly from the Bible and the works of Richard Baxter. The Scripture passages help readers see clearly that all the baggage of people-pleasing and codependency aren't simply psychological problems first identified in the 21st century, but that they are plainly identified in God's Word along with their solution—faith in Jesus Christ and faithful obedience to him.
The book ends with two appendices: one presents the Gospel simply and plainly, and the other offers guidelines for keeping a "Heart Journal" which helps readers evaluate their actions and strive for God-honoring rather than self-honoring, people-pleasing behavior and motivations. While some may struggle with people-pleasing more than others, we all fight it, and this excellent, biblically-grounded manual provides both the theological basis for identifying it as sin and the Scriptural guidelines for breaking free.
Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he is a husband and father, teaches adult Sunday school in his Presbyterian congregation, and likes weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur.Read more of his reviews here.
Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he's a husband and father who loves church, good food, and weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur. Read more of his reviews here
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