Are you an approval junkie? Are you a person who depends too heavily, in spirit, conscience or morale, on the approval of others? How would you even know? These are the questions Lou Priolo tackles in his book Pleasing People. This is a book I read weeks ago and, for some reason, decided not to review. Yet over the weeks I’ve seen the fruit of reading this book in my life and in my walk with the Lord. I’ve seen shadows of the desire to please people not only in my life but in the lives of others. I felt it would be best for me to share the book with others.
Priolo is the Director of the Center for Biblical Counseling at Eastwood Presbyterian Church in Montgomery, Alabama and has been a counselor and instructor for almost twenty years. As such he has had ample opportunity to see the ramifications of depending too heavily on the approval of others. He has seen the negative consequences of attempting to find meaning and purpose in the approval of other people. His experience brings value to this book.
The book is divided into two sections: Our Problem and God’s Solution. In the first half Priolo takes on the difficult but loving task of attempting to convict the reader of sin by bringing to bear the testimony of Scripture. He is not unaware of the difficulty and responsibility this brings. “The though of my trying to convict you of your sin may seem like a rather severe (if not unsympathetic) approach to encourage you to change, but it is actually a very loving approach. The truth is, what we will be discussing in this book is not a sickness (or a psychological disorder) for which there is no cure; it is not a genetic predisposition that you as a Christian will be forced to live with for the rest of your life. It is simply a sin. And Jesus Christ came to do away with our sin.” And this is where the gospel comes in and where we come to the second half of the book. Having shown people pleasing to be what it is, Priolo allows the Word of God to show how we can please God instead of men.
Like all books that seek to bring a person into conformity to God’s requirements, there is a danger of legalism intruding, of trying to change apart from the work of Christ and the power of the Spirit. Priolo carefully guards against this and warns of its attraction. “In some places [in this book], the righteous requirement of the law is emphasized; in other places, the grace of God is clearly the predominant theme. In some places, faith apart from works is taught; elsewhere, faith is tied to one’s works. When you put it all together, you understand that we are saved by faith alone, but not the kind of faith that is alone.”
And so he wades into the discussion. Like I expect most readers to feel, I began reading quite convinced that, though interesting, the book had little to offer me. But I was wrong. As I began to read the descriptions of a person who depends too heavily on the approval of others, and as I began to inventory my heart through the criteria presented, I was soon pierced and began to see how this sin exists in my life. And best of all I was able to see how it can be made right through the power of the Spirit in my life. And, though it is always easier to see sin in the lives of other people, this book equipped me to see how other people I know can depend too much on the approval of others and ways I can gently reach out to them to see this sin.
Written in a very logical fashion (which reminds me a great deal of the Matthias Media books I have read), Priolo’s argument and biblical remedy are easy to follow and easy to understand. He is clear in the diagnosis, clear in the scope of the problem, and clear in the remedy. He relies on the Bible to point the way and simply relates the truth of Scripture. As we would expect based on the author’s source, the book is convicting to be sure, but it also brings hope. I’m glad to recommend it, especially to those who are sure it has nothing to offer them.