Serving and pleasing: Two different things

Image: Scott Van Daalen

I’m an enneagram type 9. A natural people-pleaser. I avoid conflict like the plague. One of the hardest things for me is telling people like it is.

This morning, I was reflecting back on my dad’s final days. He was broke. Depressed. Paranoid. He’d fallen prey to many outside forces. For one, he was obsessed with web content that spouted fear-based, nationalistic, “the-government-is-out-to-kill-all-of-us” information. Not only that, but he was associating with people who were sketchy, business-wise. He was in the gold mining industry, an industry that’s riddled with people whose main goal in life is to get as wealthy as possible as quickly as they can at any cost.

It wasn’t until the very end that I built up enough nerve to confront him about it. And by that time, my anger and frustration had grown so strong that it came out in a firestorm of rage. It was too late by then. His mental landscape was so torn and twisted that, when he fell into ill health, he had no strength to get back on his feet.

You might be able to relate to this. You may know someone who is spiraling downwards while you’ve stood idly by, biting your lip, hoping they’ll straighten out. I mean, who can blame us, right? There’s only so much we can do. But simply pleasing them isn’t helping either.

As hard as it can be, instead of thinking how to please them, it’s best to think how we can serve them. How can we speak to their best interests?

Because then, at least we can say we gave it a shot. And who knows? Maybe something will shift. Maybe they’ll take what we say to heart and give themselves permission to change. Maybe we can call bullshit on their self-imposed limitations. Sometimes — not all the time — this is the way to go.

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