Living for Likes: The Danger of Living to Please Others

May 19, 2016


As a blogger, one of the biggest temptations is to become fixated on likes, shares, and views, and to write everything so that it gets the most of them possible. Social media and the internet provide the ultimate feedback system, with instant knowledge of whether or not something was well received. The hard part is criticism, and the temptation is to avoid it at all costs. Writing, after all, is an act of vulnerability, exposing your innermost thoughts for thousands to either approve of or tear apart. And boy can it be hard when you get torn apart.

But our desire for approval, and fear of disapproval, is not limited to the internet or to bloggers. It is a human problem. Every day, we feel a desire to shape who we are and what we do based on the praise or criticism of others. Whether its in the workplace, school, or with our friends and loved ones, one of the most painful feelings is that of rejection, and we avoid it all costs.

Living for Likes

In one sense, this is only natural. Humans are social creatures that want to be liked, and there is nothing inherently wrong with this. Yet, this desire for praise and approval can all too can become an obsession, a disease, an idol. It is a serious problem when who we are is not determined by anything inside of ourselves, much less our relationship with our Creator, but by the ever shifting judgments of others; when our conduct is not determined by higher principles, but by how it might be perceived.

The real test is when the desire to please others puts us in conflict with pleasing God, which it inevitably will. Following Christ always contradicts the world in one way or another. It will always provoke frowns and cynical comments, criticisms, negativity, or even outright mockery and humiliation. In a real way, this negativity can cause pain. If it is severe enough, it could resemble an emotional martyrdom of sorts, especially if the disapproval is received from those we love and care about most.

The question is, who do we want to please more, God or men? Will we shrink back and change like a chameleon to blend in? Will we apologize and capitulate? Or will we courageously stand firm like the great saints and martyrs? How we answer those questions will reveal much about our hearts.

The Cause

At the root of our desire to please is self-love, also known as pride. Self-love infects everything and distorts it, and this is no less true of our desire to be liked. The sting we feel when others criticize or mock us is our deep rooted love-of-self flinching in pain. And because this is true, the only way to overcome and be free from the sickness of people-pleasing is to steep ourselves in humility.

The truly humble man is dead to the praise or criticism of others. He is entirely indifferent if he receives the Nobel prize or is lynched by a mob. One question, and one question only drives the way he lives: Have I pleased my Lord Jesus Christ who loved me and gave himself for me?

How far nearly all of us are from this humble freedom and indifference! At this first hint of criticism, we recoil and shrink back. We modify, qualify, and retract. We have no courage, no inner fortitude, or at least not nearly enough.

The Solution

The only way to break free of the bondage of pleasing others is to learn to accept everything, even humiliation, at their hands. Be willing to carry the cross of criticism, to bear the pain of rejection and mockery. To pray for your persecutors, while not bending to please them.

And when the pain of rejection and shame sears your heart, remember your crucified Lord, who endured the shame of the Cross, despising it to obtain your salvation. He too was mocked, stripped naked, scoffed at, derided and utterly humiliated in every way; abandoned by his closest friends, rejected by those he came to save, and exposed for all the world to laugh at.

But you know what? He loved you more. He endured the cross of shame to save the very ones who subjected him to this humiliation, crying out, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” And that includes you.

Living to please others is a very real form of bondage. It enslaves and destroys. The only way to be liberated is to carry our crosses and submit to the shame of pleasing God over men. We must learn to love our Savior more than praise and approval, for only then will we be truly free.

Sam Guzman


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Reader Interactions


    • William says

      One of your best blog posts. Please keep up the great work, the world needs more outspoken men of integrity. I am enjoying your writing style more and more with each new posting.

  1. John says

    Sometimes displeasing others repeatedly is because I’m acting like a jerk. Other times, it’s because I am doing God’s bidding, which is counter to what the world wants. I — we — need the help of the Holy Spirit to help us discern which of these two scenarios is playing out. If the first, I need to change my behavior. If the second, I only need ask if I am doing in the most loving way possible that thing which God wants me to do . If the answer is yes, I need to carry on.

  2. Andrew Markich says

    Thanks for the insight. In trying to grow in holiness being meek and humble are two virtues I try to develop. O Lord help me to be a saint . Yes we must bear our crosses for He loves us dearly . He sends them to us so we may prove our love to Him. Thank God for your sufferings and ask Him for more so that you may show Him how much you love Him. Thanks for this post.

  3. Daniel says

    A very important article, Sam. It takes true humility – with lots of practice! – to disregard human respect, especially in these days of evil where our faith is not only mocked but is treated with open hostility and even hatred. Pray. Stay strong.

  4. Bien Landicho says

    Nice article, Sam! I really like the reminder on looking at disapproval and suffering as our way of bearing bearing the cross. Although I would like to add that we should listen to criticism and take them with a grain of salt. If someone is being overly critical without basis, then it is fine to pray for him and work through the pain. However, there are some criticisms that merit some bending. Any criticism that you can learn from and leads you to improve yourself is good. I’d bet it would even please our Lord that we better ourselves based on that criticism.

    It is my first time to comment here but I have been an avid follower of your blog and I have shared it to my friends. Keep up the good work, sir!

  5. Kevin M. says

    Expressed so well! The truth is, with social media — and without focus on God — we have an entire culture living for likes. And when young people’s likes fall off on social media, they enter a dark depression, some even committing suicide. How sad.


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