" Nothing Is so dead as yesterday's news" snarls my editor at the Daily Sentinel or the Schnorer Gazette. "Like the Arab's tent they will be folded up and carted away" says the Psalmist in the Holy Scriptures. " Winston Who?" asks the hip second year student at an English high school. Who cares about Hammurabi or G. Washington or Woodrow Wilson? I'm today, man, and I'm into computers and DVD's and Rap. I'm not interested in Benny Goodman or Tony Bennett or Kate Smith. It's Puffy and Eminem. It's today that grabs me! Everything passes. Nothing is permanent! This is what I hear as the leitmotif of my environment. In effect, the modern personality seems, to me, to have little use for the rear view mirror of history. It's constantly asking the outside environment: " How am I doin'?" and "tell me right now."
But while we all are familiar with the old gig that he who is unaware of the mistakes of history is bound to repeat them, the "today" or " now" mentality does have some validity and rationality to it.
Some years ago, a Paulist priest, famous for his quiet holiness and universal popularity died in the Mother House in New York. Following the funeral rites, at which there was flowery and abundant verbal appreciation, the 40 priests trooped to the Refectory for Lunch and manifested behaviorally a fact of life. The dead priest was never mentioned once by any of the clergy present. It was as if he had never existed. We have done our duty, we said, symbolically, and we have dispatched him to his reward and now we can forget about him, operationally and get on with our own lives.
As cold hearted as this seems, it probably reflects a factual aspect of human functioning. This can occur even in blood linked relationships, even in spousal loss. If the underlying dynamic is "out of sight, out of mind", isn't it utterly inane to imagine that we will be widely remembered once we pass off this worldly stage? If this priest had been motivated largely by what other people thought of him, with the illusion-hope that he would be fondly and often remembered after his death by frequent allusions to his work and goodness, he would have been a deeply distorted human being- - - to say nothing of a confused and underdeveloped priest. The priest in question was the exact opposite of such distortion. He was the serene, confident man of God - - - - meaning that he deeply believed in the Pauline principle of having his life profoundly interface with the Lord's.
This means that one's primary motivation is to Honor the Lord in ALL things as much as possible! With such a life framework, he and enlightened ones like him found that highly prized commodity: FREEDOM of spirit! This also means that one lives in the Present Moment, probably one of the keys to a truly peaceful and, hopefully, happy life. This kind of free man can truly enjoy his earth experience without the frenetic bustling around to impress the world. He is able to "let go" of the past wherein he may have bungled some aspect of his life and at the same time not torment himself about what "Might" happen in the future. He finds that it is all right to " live one day at a time." Such interiority IS possible with the help of the Almighty Lord! We call such help Grace!
If such a motivational structure were to dominate a person's interior life, human affirmation and acknowledgement, while pleasant and heartwarming, would take a definite second place. Primary to his interiority would be the quiet strength, the clarity and affective validation that come from knowing that he lives for God's honor and glory. Whether or not his good works are known and appreciated by others is irrelevant. He is already rewarded and validated. His dynamic of life is focused on the Divine approval, not the human. He is keenly aware of the spiritual dictum: GOD WHO SEES IN SECRET, WILL REWARD IN SECRET. There is no driving compulsion to trumpet his virtues over the national radio! Hence, his conscience is at peace.
For the mode of his life, he consults, under God, his own heart and mind, not some one else's. He manages his life without the terror that someone might not approve his choices. I cannot live my life, he says, with the constant need to be assured by others.
If God is foremost in any human soul which tries to honor Him in all one does, it would mean that everything in life is meaningful, particularly, conscious choices. There is, henceforth, nothing insignificant in life. As a byproduct, one experiences freedom and peace. The variations of this kind of interior freedom become incalculable.
When we speak of someone deteriorating to the despicable level of the " people pleaser," we mean someone who is emotionally dominated by the " other." David Reisman, years ago, differentiated the other directed from the inner directed personality, in the sense that the former LIVES to say what he thinks another wants to hear and does what he thinks the other wants him to do. In Biblical thinking, the people pleaser sees, not as God sees, but as man sees!
He tries persistently to ingratiate himself into another's good graces, fears rejection above all things and simply does not possess his own soul. Affirmation is his oxygen, recognition, his daily bread. He is reluctant (often unable) to stand alone. He is anything but a Jonathan Livingston Seagull type. He is a conformist, a yes man, a political dweeb who dares not to disagree especially with those who, he thinks, have some kind of power. He finds it difficult to say NO even when common sense and good spirituality would indicate otherwise. He needs everyone to like him—and more!. Saying No for the people pleaser is to risk the disapproval/ rejection of the "other". And (surprise!) there are even people pleasing psychotherapists who want to take EVERYONE under their benign love and care. Obviously, they should return to their own therapy to find balance - -and quickly! Ultimately, the people pleaser loses respect for himself and the respect of others which he so desperately craves.
People pleasing is dumb! Even if it is widespread! It never works. It only hurts! It is a self destructive putdown to BEG others to accept you and applaud you and affirm you! God already does, in the light of which people pleasing becomes glaringly dopey! People rarely ever do what the P.P. so urgently seeks. The P.P. vibes out the pathetic and futile message: "I'll kiss the floor. I'll grovel. I'll deny all my own convictions if you will only love And accept me." Catholics believe that with God's help one can learn to affirm one's self. There is no need to degrade oneself but there is a fundamental need to become aware of one's own dignity and value.
People pleasing is not a pretty personality picture and is basically antithetical to what Catholics call the " saintly" person. The gallant Ignatius of Antioch when insulted by an Emperor, railed at the mighty one and demanded that he SPEAK NOT THUS TO IGNATIUS THE GOD BEARER. The holy person does not let brutes and bullies push him around. Turning the other cheek does NOT mean that Christ expects us to be doormats. See His example. See His dignity and His refusal to " butter up" those who could save Him from pain and death.
This Christ-centered free person discovers that there is life after " rejection." He can breathe and laugh and walk even though some one dislikes him and whom he might displease. He discovers that being approved, loved and admired by everyone is a myth and an illusion. There will always be those who will reject him and always those whom he dislikes. One also discovers that the world's population is not consumed with and focused on his every little action or inaction. He finds out that most of the time "others" simply can't be bothered or don't care. He no longer has that paralysis of inaction stemming from his fantasy of negative judgment!
What ergs of energy the people pleaser wastes within the great gift of life given to him by a loving Lord! This is counter productivity to the "ultra" degree. This distortion misses the central point: God gives us life that we may enjoy it!
Without being narcissistic, one can - - with authentic spirituality-
take good care of one's self and still be " good" to others. And it can be genuine holiness to have some appropriate FUN in life. As the great Teresa of Avila pointed out: " A sad saint is a sad sort of saint." The dour, depressed, pouting cynic hardly reflects the profound joy of the one who walks with God.
Finally, what we need for happiness in life is a satisfactory relationship with God and an awareness of His communication to us of our own basic worth, regardless of what we do or what others might think of us. That communiqué is ready and waiting. All anyone has to do is ask for it! But one does need to know Whom to ask!