(Photo by http://www.flickr.com/photos/vanz. Located in Milan, Italy)

Well, are you hanging in here with me? Facing our self-protective sinful strategies can be hard work because it seems so threatening. And maybe it even feels like I’m being picky. Or hard-hearted. Or silly to consider everything so harshly. I understand. And the last thing I want to do is give a sense of hopelessness or condemnation. 

But if we don’t identify where these seemingly “little” strategies hold us, they will keep us captive without our knowing it. Then hopelessness and condemnation will surface and we wonder why. We’ll think, “Why do I do what I do when I had such good intentions to not do it! And why do I not do what I should when I had such good intentions to obey?” At the core of that struggle are self-protective sinful strategies! That’s why we must be picky, diligent, and risk silliness. And God offers hope and grace to empower us to overcome.

So please don’t give up or feel condemned. There is hope and forgiveness. And Romans 8:1 assures us there is no condemnation, only forgiveness and cleansing (I John 1:9). So let’s continue on with Obadiah and see the next strategy that the Edomites trusted in. It’s people! 

“All the men allied with you
Will send you forth to the border,
And the men at peace with you
Will deceive you and overpower you.
They who eat your bread
Will set an ambush for you.
(There is no understanding in him.) (verse 7, NASB)

The Edomites had lots of friends. It paid to be a friend of the Edomites. They had power, prestige, and influence. Since it seemed they were impenetrable anyway, it made sense to be on their good side. As a result, the Edomites had no fear of others. They were proud of their allegiances. It must have meant a lot to know they were so worthy of friendship. Yet, God said even this seemingly secure strategy would fail them. Nebuchadnezzar was able to secure spies inside the city and brought about their destruction. The “friends” who seemed so friendly, deceived and overpowered the Edomites as God designed.

How is the Edomites’ strategy revealed in our lives? It’s through our People Pleasing or through pouring contempt on others. Either way, it’s a way to protect ourselves from any number of fears: rejection, validation of our worthlessness, responsibility for others’ happiness, feeling powerless, abandonment or etc, etc. Oh, this is so hard to consider, isn’t it? And sometimes it truly feels like displeasing people will devastate us. 

Or we cover up that possibility by being critical or contemptuous of others. We think our way is the only way and everyone else is incorrect. That’s a weird form of People Pleasing because we are making sure we avoid the possibility of needing approval. But the craving is still there. It’s a cover-up of protection.

The photo I chose for this post represents to me both the effort of trying to push against a person who refuses to be pleased, and it also seems to represent the close inspection we give others looking for something to criticize.

Larry and I love to watch the TV program, “What Not to Wear.” Forgive us. It’s amazing the strategies that are revealed as women (and men!) are forced to face their bad clothing choices. Just recently, a woman admitted, “If I don’t risk, no one can criticize me.” What was she risking? Wearing a dress. But in actuality the real risk was the disapproval of others. Of course, the program doesn’t go “below the waterline” to find out the underlying causes of the strategies. Yet, people seem changed. Their perspective is altered. It’s quite surprising. 

Unfortunately, it’s a little harder at times to change the ungodly patterns that have become so deeply rooted in our hearts. But it can be done. Even People Pleasing and contempt for others can be transformed by the Spirit of God. If you’d like to read more about People Pleasing, here’s a link to the blogs I’ve posted on my blog about People Pleasing. Blogs on People Pleasing

And among those was this post from June, 2008 (below). I hope you enjoy it. And in our next post, we’ll discover another (yes, another!) possible strategy from the Edomites! 

Larry and I were talking about our care of Audrey (Larry’s 92-year-old mother who has Lewy-Bodies dementia and lives with us). I’d rejoiced telling him that that morning I hadn’t gotten irritated with her as she complained. I’ve been learning that when I get irritated/angry/upset about her complaints, it’s because I’m feeling like it’s a reflection on my inability to please her–to make life good for her. It feels like I’m not doing a good job and/or that I’m not a very good person because I’m failing at what I should be doing.

“But then as we talked, we made a distinction between caring for Audrey and pleasing her. We are called to care for her; we can’t necessarily please her. We can care for her because that is only up to us. We can do what we think is best for her.

“But pleasing her requires her response, her involvement, her assessment of whether what we’re doing is correct/right/loving. Especially in her mentally ill state, her definition of good care is not based on truth.

“So, we can care for her but we can’t necessarily please her. And of course, caring for her is guided by God and evaluated by Him. He is our “audience of One” and He knows the truth (even when she tells us in many different ways we’re not doing a good job).

“Maybe you’re trying to please someone but your job is only supposed to be to care for them, or give them godly love (wanting what’s best for them which they may not believe is really love). I hope you’ll remember that you can only do what you can do (caring)–and not what they might think is right (pleasing).”