On a recent QEC session we got talking about how people pleasing can be like being a hamster on a hamster wheel. If only I could draw because “a picture paints a thousand words” but “words are all I have”.
So I want you to picture three hamster wheels – you’re the one in the middle and on either side are those you are trying to please. You’re all running as fast as you can. You keep getting carrots but instead of eating them you keep giving those carrots to the hamsters either side of you because you want to please them. Your deepest wish is for them to be happy, to be content, to calm down, etc. And you have been brought up that to be a “good hamster” you make sure everyone else is alright. But the thing is a hamster doesn’t eat the food it is given but stores it in its pouches. So even though you are being a good hamster and trying to keep the hamsters beside you happy they aren’t getting fed because they are storing it in their pouches.
Too often we think we should do everything for others, should be the one pleasing them all the time, should be the ones putting everything right, but we lose sight of ourselves. Like the little hamster in the middle we get thinner and thinner whilst those we are trying to please just get fat pouches but are still not happy.
Because I am a follower of Jesus I often try and think about what the Bible says about things. So Jesus says “love your neighbour as yourself,” which even for someone who doesn’t believe in God it is a good way to be. This is what the little hamster in the middle is trying to do. The little hamster is doing what all good sermons tell them to do, putting others first.
This isn’t what that verse says. It needs to be looked at in more details. And if the Bible is read as a whole and not as soundbite then it does go on to explain further.
Someone once asked Jesus who his neighbour was and Jesus tells the famous story of the Good Samaritan [Luke 10:25-37] If you don’t know it then go and read it.
Now in this when the Samaritan does rescue the man he does basic first aid but then takes him to a man who can do more. The Samaritan does not lecture the man and tell him he was daft to be on the road alone, he does not give him extra money to be able to get home, he does not give him what he has lost. The Samaritan takes him to the inn then offers to pay for all expenses for him, then goes on his way. The Samaritan did not throw money at him, he did not set him up in business again, he doesn’t even go and tell his family the man is gong to be a bit late getting home. Nope! The Samaritan does what needs to be done to a man who is danger and needs help. All the other things – like rebuilding what he has lost, of being more sensible in future, of thinking for himself – is left for the man to sort out when he is well again.
I often wonder if, as well as fearing being “unclean”, the two ‘church’ people were afraid that they would not know when to stop giving. And I think we have all been taught how to give but very rarely have we been taught how to stop.
So back to the hamster analogy – you, the little hamster needs to get your needs met, needs to know what you need. And that might just be getting off the hamster wheel for a bit and finding out what your needs actually are. And also maybe letting those you think you are meant to be pleasing look after themselves for a bit.
It might surprise you, little hamster, to know that those you think you should be pleasing will actually be ok if you stop feeding what you think are their needs all the time.