The Duty of Pleasing Others
J. R. Miller
"Each one of us must please his neighbor for his good, in order to build him up." Romans 15:2
Some people are not accustomed to think of pleasing others as a duty. We have been trained to think of what is right and just in our relations to others, without reference to the effect our words or conduct may have upon them. But there is no reason why we should not do the things that are right, and at the same time seek to please those with whom we are dealing.
Paul says, "Let each one of us please his neighbor—for his good, unto edifying." We are to please our neighbor for his good. We must not think of gratifying his whims, of feeding his vanity, or of nourishing his self conceit. This would not be to "please him—for his good, unto edifying." A great many people are hurt irreparably by insincere flattery. They may be pleased in a sense—but it is not for their good. They are puffed up by it, encouraged to think more highly of themselves than they ought to think. We can do no greater unkindness to another, than to stimulate his self conceit. Yet one of the temptations of good nature, is to be insincere and even untruthful in commending others. But it is not this kind of pleasing that Paul had in mind. It must be for the person's good, his growth in character, and then it must be genuine and altogether true.
The duty of pleasing others is part of the great lesson of love. If we love our neighbor—we will desire to give him pleasure, to make him truly happy. We get the lesson from our Master, and in His life, love blossomed out in all its perfection. Christ never sacrificed truth, was never insincere—and yet His speaking to men was always marked by kindliness. He was never brusque in His speech. He never lost His temper, nor spoke in anger. He reproved men's sins and faults—but when He did this, His tones were quiet and His voice was full of love.
If we love others as Christ loves them, we will seek always to do them good. We will never speak pridefully. We will never reveal vanity or self conceit in our fellowship with those about us. There is a way of criticizing and reproving, which is offensive and brash. Love gives us no right to judge and condemn. It does not authorize us to watch others or to treat them censoriously. If we have love in our hearts—we will seek to save others from sin, to restrain them from wrong doing—but we will do even these services in lowliness and love, so as to win and not to lose those we reprove. Humility will mark our every word and act. We will always be gentle and kind, speaking in love when we must say anything unpleasant, anything which will give pain.
Another reason we should seek to please others, is that everyone needs encouragement and cheer. It is possible for us so to bear ourselves in our relations to others as to make life harder for them. On the other hand, we have the power of adding immeasurably to the strength, the cheer, and the energy of others about us. Words of encouragement are wondrous inspirations. An artist said that his mother's kiss made him a painter. That is, when she saw his crude work and thought she detected in it indications of genius, instead of laughing at what he had done, she kissed her boy with encouragement and gave him an impulse which sent him on his way with enthusiasm and hope.
But children are not the only people who need encouragement, and are pleased and helped by words of appreciation. We never get too old or too high up in our work, to be cheered and stimulated by sincere commendation. When we read a book which helps us, no matter how distinguished the author may be, we will please him and do him a real kindness—if we will write him a few words of grateful recognition, telling him how his book has helped us. When the preacher has spoke earnestly and his words have given us cheer, or comfort, light on some dark problem, or help in some perplexity, however great he may be, however praised among men—a word of encouragement from the humblest person in his audience will send a glow of warmth and cheer into his heart—pleasing him for his good.
It is the good of the person, which we are to think. Edifying means building up. This is always the motive of love. Envy seeks to harm another, to take away from his honor, to check him in his progress, to tear down what he has built up. But love always thinks of the good of the other person, and of how his best interests may be advanced. We have an errand to everyone whose life we touch. We are sent from God with a blessing to Him. We may not know what our mission is, what the good is that we are to do for Him—but love will find something to do for him which will make him a better and happier man. The true Christian way of relating ourselves to those about us is this—to be ready always to give any help that may be needed.
The idea of help does not have in mind merely material aid. Ofttimes the last thing we should do for one in need, is to help him by relieving him of his load, by doing the hard task for him by giving him money. In the miracle at the Beautiful Gate the apostles had no money to give—but what they gave was better than money. We must not think that none need love's ministries, but those who are in some physical distress or in some great sorrow. Many who reveal no tokens of suffering, are yet sufferers. Grief does not always wear mourning clothes. There are hungry hearted ones, who need love and sympathy. There are those who are misunderstood, to whom a word of confidence would impart strength. There are discouraged people, to whom a glad, welcoming face is a heavenly blessing, full of inspiration for them.
We cannot estimate the value of our influence, as helpers of those who need help. We must seek to please them in ways which will make them stronger, truer, better. There is a great deal of unfit comforting of others by those who think only of pleasing, not of helping. There is a kind of sympathy which only makes one weaker and less able to endure. The word comfort means to strengthen. We have comforted a sorrowing one, only when we have made him stronger. The Holy Spirit is called the Comforter. The name means one who stands by another. Standing by means comradeship. We may not give the person anything. We may not do anything at all which can be regarded as a favor—but the mere fact of our standing by him in strong friendship, is of incalculable value to him. That was what Jesus hoped of His friends in Gethsemane. They could not help Him in any way—He must drink the cup Himself; but if they were near by Him in love and companionship, this alone would make Him stronger.
Our helping of others must not be too insistent. We must respect the individuality of those to whom we would be friends. There is danger that even love will be officious sometimes, and reveal its eagerness in ways which will take away much of its value. People do not like to be helped in a demeaning or professional way. The help must be the help of love itself—and must be given simply, quietly, gently, unostentatiously. It must never intermeddle. When we stand by one who is in sorrow—the fewer words we speak the better. There is altogether too much talking in many cases, by those who are sincerely eager to help. The best service we can give to those who are in grief—is to lead them into the presence of Christ and leave them there alone with Him.
A strong, quiet face, telling of peace and joy in the heart, is in itself a blessing. On the other hand, a gloomy and discouraged face hurts everyone who looks upon it, leaves a shadow upon other lives, and makes them a little less fit for the struggles, the tasks, and the duties before them.
If we are wise, we will avoid all ostentatious display in efforts to please others. We will simply seek to be our natural selves, with sincere love, with patience, thoughtfulness, and kindliness in our spirits. We will not talk about it—talking about it spoils everything. The best good is always done—when we know not that we are doing good. The greatest help is given to others—when they knew not that they are being helped.
The Duchess of Kent was a richly endowed woman, and was universally beloved. Once the Princess Alice, herself simple, sweet and unspoiled, asked her: "What makes everyone love to be with you? I am always so sorry to have to leave you, and so are all the others who come here. What is the secret, grandmamma?"
It was not easy for the noble woman to answer such a personal question. But it was important that it should be answered for the sake of her who had asked it, and who was indeed hungry to know the secret. So the noble lady gave this memorable answer:
"I was early instructed, that the way to please others--was to be sincerely interested in the things which interested them, namely their own affairs; and that this could be accomplished only by burying one's own troubles, interests, or joys completely out of sight. Forgetfulness of one's own concerns, a smiling face, a sincere word of sympathy or unselfish help, where it is possible to give it--will always please others--and the giver equally so."
"I try to please everyone in everything I do. I don't just do what I like or what is best for me, but what is best for them—so they may be saved." 1 Corinthians 10:33