My mom used to pack my lunch in elementary school. She would usually pack a sandwich, fruit snacks, an apple, cookies or chips, and a juice. I remember when I was really young, maybe first or second grade, I had a bologna sandwich for lunch. It was no big deal to me, as I had eaten plenty of bologna sandwiches, ham sandwiches, turkey, etc. However, there was one day when an older kid came up to me and it changed everything.
This kid was probably in the fourth grade or so, and he started randomly talking to me as I was having my lunch. He saw me eating my sandwich and said, "Eww! you eat bologna?!" I sheepishly responded, "Yeah." He said, "Do you know what they do to bologna before they give it to people?" I said, "No, what?" He said, "They let rats nibble on it before they give it to people. That's why it has all those little holes and crevices in it. It's disgusting!" I think he may have even told me that bologna was for poor people. Needly to say, I immediately lost my appetite.
That very same day, I went home and told my mom that I didn't like bologna anymore and that I didn't want her to make it for me for lunch. I don't think I ever told her why, but from that day forward, I probably didn't have a bologna sandwich for lunch for at least the next two or three school years. It wasn't until I finally connected the dots that the older kid was lying that I felt free to eat bologna again.
Another story comes to mind of when I was in summer camp. This was probably around second grade and my mom dressed me in a tank top. The tank top was very comfortable on those hot and humid DC summer days, but not for me. The reason why is because I would keep my right arm firmly pressed against my torso all day because I have a big birthmark under my right armpit and I was very self conscious about it.
I really can't remember if another kid said something to me about it or if I just became self conscious on my own. Regardless, by the end of the day, my armpit would literally be sweating, as a second grader, because I cared so much about what people thought.
Caring about what people thought and trying to please people put me in a position of so much bondage and discomfort. Even at a young age, I was trying to live up to the standards and expectations of what others considered good or some imaginary standard of perfection. Even though missing out on years of bologna sandwiches and letting my armpit breathe freely are silly examples, they actually show the very real results of people pleasing.
I'm sure I could list several more examples of how I let the opinion of others affect the way I live that are way more serious than these, but I chose these to show just how early the natural desire to people please can start. Reminiscing on this has caused me to really get to the root of why we seek to please others. Is it the fear of man? Is it rejection? Is it insecurity? Is it all of the above?
I'm on record in saying that people pleasing is one of the most deep rooted deliverances that people can face. It's natural for us to want to be liked and accepted by others because humans are relational creatures. However, when we desire acceptance and approval so much that it becomes bondage, that's when it becomes a real problem.
How can we truly be free if we care so much about what other people think? How can we ever be satisfied when the opinions and demands of mankind can change like the wind? How can God effectively use us if we are more governed by the opinion of man than the instruction of God?
The scripture is very clear about the fear of man. It says that the fear of man brings a snare (Prov. 29:25). Jesus also said in Matthew 10:28, And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. In other words, as today's translation would read, "Don't worry about these people think. These people ain't got no heaven or hell to put you in!"
These days, I hardly ever eat bologna sandwiches. It's not because of some lie from a fourth grader. It's not because I think rats have gotten ahold of it. It's simply becauseI choose not to. However, just because I want to celebrate how free I am and to take one step closer to being totally free from people pleasing, I am going to have myself a lovely bologna sandwich, with American cheese, on white bread, just like my mom used to make it. Oh, and I will also be enjoying it with my tank top on and my birthmark getting all the fresh air it needs. I encourage you to as well... but ONLY if you want to.