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Rick Warren and “The Purpose-Driven Life”

It’s one thing to like people and reach out to them, looking for common links; it’s another to feel you must please everyone else but God.


Bestselling author Rick Warren seems the inveterate people pleaser when you meet him. He came by the office the other day and wanted to talk to everyone he passed in the halls, full of questions: “Where are you from?” “How long have you worked at Guideposts?” “What’s your role here?”

The conversations were often punctuated by a hug. It was all we could do to sit him down and ask him a few questions! (Watch the video here.) One of the things we did want to ask him was about people pleasing. Because, as he was quick to remind us, it’s one thing to like people and reach out to them, looking for common links; it’s another to feel you must please everyone else but God. That’s a topic he takes so seriously he’s added it to the new revised, tenth-anniversary edition of The Purpose-Driven Life.

As he puts it, people pleasing is a way of saying, “I must be liked by you to be happy.” Think how dangerous that can be.

“The dark side of the desire for approval is the fear of disapproval,” he writes. “After talking with people living in over a hundred different countries, I have come to believe that fear of being criticized or rejected by others is the most common reason people get detoured from the path God planned for them.”

I had to wonder if Rick Warren ever had his own struggle with people pleasing. Indeed he did, the first year he started Saddleback Church, trying to be everything to everyone, and it nearly did him in. This is back when Saddleback had only 150 members. Today it has more than 30,000. Can you imagine being a people pleaser for all of them?

“No person has the ability to give you all the security, approval, acceptance and love you need, regardless of what they may promise you,” he says. “If you expect them to meet needs that only God can meet, you are being unfair to them, you are setting them up for failure and you are setting yourself up to become bitter.”

Paul put it this way in his letter to the Galatians: “I’m not trying to win the approval of people but of God. If pleasing people were my goal I would not be Christ’s servant.” Or in his letter to the Thessalonians: “Our purpose is to please God, not people. He alone examines the motives of our hearts.”

Those are verses that made a huge difference to Warren and have molded his own purpose-driven life. Not surprising that he would want to share them.

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