Saturday, July 30, 2011

#1 Lesson Learned - Don't be a People-Pleaser

My husband and I discuss issues at depth every day. We talk throughout the day, but I especially savor the intimate time with him before bed every night, after the children are in bed, when we talk about anything and everything, sometimes staying up way too late. He has such good insight and is also a very good listener. Our communication with each other is one of the greatest gifts I could be given.

We've been talking lately about our journey together living amongst the plain people and the lessons learned during that time. Here is one of them.

Do not live to please other people.

As is common knowledge, the plain people live differently than the general public in so many ways. This can sometimes lead to pride, in the sense that "Our way is the only godly way." It sets up barriers and walls to people not in that particular church or group. Sometimes other plain groups are avoided if they are deemed too worldly, or not as godly, for whatever reason the ministry may have. We've seen it be something as seemingly trivial as the other group "wears skirts and blouses instead of dresses like us. We need to let our people know not to associate with them."

Both groups are professing Christians. It seems very odd to the world. But when you're in it, strangely enough, you understand it, although you may not agree with it. Or sometimes you wake up and shockingly realize you've slowly started agreeing with it.

Most of these deductions are fear-based. Fear of people. It seems there's not a lot of trust that God can protect and bless if you're not also protected and sheltered by an exclusive group. With this perspective, it sets up the leader as a type of "god," as God is seemingly not enough. People leaving the group are seen as losing their faith and relationships with them are discouraged or banned, in fear that they will influence others and make them lose their faith too. Fear of what man might do. Fear of losing control.

We didn't realize until after we left how these attitudes portrayed the group/church to the world. It pushed people away. One reason being fear of being judged and criticized for not meeting the man-made requirements they've come up with. (The requirements differ from group to group, depending usually on the leader's background and where he's at spiritually at the time.)

I grieve at the way I played a part in making people feel small. More than one "outsider" has expressed the way these attitudes have made them feel smaller than small, even when they've had brief encounters with group members at Wal-Mart or other public places, in passing. At times it's an aura, as attitudes can be communicated sometimes even without words. I have been just as guilty as others. It becomes sort of like "group-think," everyone thinking the same way. We didn't even see it or realize it until we weren't in the middle of it anymore.

To most people raised in plain backgrounds, this type of life feels normal and right; it's what they know. And it is a wholesome lifestyle with a lot of beneficial elements. The main drawback we see is the rejection and intolerance of people that are not part of the group, or are not expressing interest in being part of the group. (If someone is not part of the group, but is expressing interest in becoming part of the group, they are warmly welcomed.)

We, having been raised in the American culture, and then also living in the Plain culture for five years, have the advantage of seeing from both "sides." I say "sides" because that's the perspective of most plain people -- not all, but most. From that perspective, I was raised an outsider, then I was a true believer for several years, now I'm an outsider again.

Lest anyone misinterpret, I am happy and grateful for our many life experiences, including our time with the plain people, as it, along with our other life experiences, has helped our family see different perspectives and views, not just our own. We have grown, having furthered our education in life. It has helped us develop EMPATHY, which is another lesson learned, that I plan on writing about in the future.

Psalm 118:6 "The Lord is on my side; I will not fear: what can man do unto me?"

Affirmation for today: I will not be a people-pleaser.