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What Happens When Pleasing Others Becomes Most Important?

By John A. Huffman, Jr.

Mark 15:15

So Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released Barabbas for them; and after flogging Jesus, he handed him over to be crucified.

"JUDY GARLAND, 47, FOUND DEAD" was the front page caption of The New York Times on Monday, June 23, 1969.

She, whose successes on stage and screen were overshadowed by the pathos of her personal life, was a suicide. Garland's life, the papers related, often seemed a fruitless search for the happiness promised in "Somewhere Over the Rainbow," the song she made famous in The Wizard of Oz. Five times she was married. Her life was miserable offstage because of the effects of drugs prescribed either to stimulate or tranquilize her.

I don't know how you handle jet lag. Often, when I travel to the East Coast on a one- or two-day trip, I find myself staring at the walls the first night, knowing that although it is 12 o'clock in Boston, it is only nine o'clock in Newport Beach. It is too late in the day to do any substantial reading, and I feel the pressure to get my sleep because the alarm will be going off at 5:30 a.m., which is really 2:30 a.m. by my body clock time. Since it is too late to read, I flick on the television. If I find Letterman or Leno boring, I drift over to the history or the biography channels. That is just about the right level to slow me down and help me drift off to sleep.

On two occasions now, I have caught the biography channel special on Judy Garland, and I have found myself staying awake later than I had planned, so fascinated by her tragic story.

Judy Garland's career was marked by a compulsive desire to please other people. In her first performance at age 30 months, in the new Grand Theater in Grand Rapids, Minnesota, she sang "Jingle Bells" on a Christmas program. So compelling was her response to the footlights, her father was forced to remove her after she had repeated the song seven times. According to one newspaper account, "The other side of the compulsively vibrant, exhausting performances that were her stage hallmark was a seemingly unquenchable need for her audience to respond with acclaim and affection. And often they did, screaming: 'We love you, Judy--we love you!'"

At the heart of each of us is a yearning to be accepted, an inclination to crowd pleasing. You and I are familiar with people, perhaps only stage names to us, or perhaps persons much closer, who are driven like Judy Garland by a desire to please other people.

You may be one of them. Your instantaneous reaction may be to pull back, protesting my evaluation of you is dead wrong. Just a moment! Are you so sure? At the heart of each of us is a yearning to be accepted by others, an inclination which, if not checked, will make a crowd pleaser out of you and me.

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