This is a repost of a book review from April 2012. I'm reposting it because I'm just reading this book with someone and have been reminded how useful it has been to me. It's not one of those books that are "out there" or particularly in the public consciousness, so I'm very happy to highlight it and say, what's been good for me may well be good for you. In the meantime, I notice that Andrew Evans likes it too!
This is a hard book review to write. Why? Because in the review I am about to give I will reveal something of my heart and a lot of my sin. That's unavoidable. As soon as I tell you that this was a book for me, I've let the cat out of the bag. So here goes - Pleasing People by Lou Priolo. This was a book for me. There, said it. Why write a review then, if it is all so heart-revealing? For the simple reason that being a people pleaser is a common sin in many pastors and preachers. We tend not to be, on the whole, those who err by thinking nothing of others. We're soft hearted towards others - and so we tend to err by being overly sensitive to others - and very, very often this means overly sensitive when it comes to what others think about us.
In so many ways it's the kind of book I don't really enjoy reading - lots of numbered lists. It's not quite a seven-step-to-success program but at times, because each chapter is often a collection of points, 1., 2., 3. and so on, it does feel like that. But, in one sense, it's very puritan-like - and that's not surprising because Priolo draws heavily on Timothy Dwight, Hugh Blair, Jeremiah Burroughs (hoorah, East End boy!) and, especially, Richard Baxter. That means what you get is warm, biblical wisdom suffused with pastoral punch. I got beyond the lists to the heart of what Lou was saying: and very often I found those lists describing me from lots of different angles.
To be frank, this is the pastoral punch many of us need. OK, let's not beat around the bush. It's pastoral punch that I need. So here, for example, are ten characteristics of an approval junkie:
he fears the displeasure of man more than the displeasure of God
he desires the praise of man more than the praise of God
he studies what it takes to please man as much (if not more than) what it means to please God
his speech is designed to entice and flatter others into thinking well of him
he is a respecter of persons
he is oversensitive to correction, reproof, and other allusions of dissatisfaction or disapproval on the part of others
he outwardly renders eye service to man rather than inwardly rendering sincere (from the heart) ministry to the Lord
he selfishly uses the wisdom, abilities and gifts that have been given him for God's glory and the benefit of others for his own glory and personal benefit
he invests more of his personal resources in establishing his own honour than he does in establishing God's honour
he is discontented with the condition and proportion that God has appointed for him
Sound familiar? Oh, and the people-pleaser is also often a procrastinator. Did I mention that? You'll have to read the book to find out why. This book was good for my soul. It's the kind of book that I won't lend to you. I'd lend you most of the books in my library should you ask nicely, but not this one. I need to read it regularly, I think. Plus, you don't want to see my scribbled comments and highlights (or rather, I don't want you to see them. I don't think that's just because I'm a people pleaser (!!) but there are some things that are better not shared).
As well as being suffused with the wisdom of the puritans, it's also highly biblical (no surprise that the two go together). If I had a criticism, it would be that there is almost too much Scripture (e.g. on humility, p168-170) which can mean running the risk of taking some texts out of context. But this is a minor niggle. Overall, the tone is gentle, persuasive and focused. And - this is possibly my highest praise - the book is very God-centred: Christ-centred, even. Again, using the puritans makes this less than surprising, but time and time again I found myself thinking less of myself and more of him. That's got to be good, right? And in so doing, my motives and thoughts are laid bare - this quote from Jeremiah Burroughs is typical:
I urge you to consider that God does not deal with you as you deal with him. If God were to put the worst interpretation on all your ways towards him as you put on his towards you, it would be very bad for you.
So, buy, read and keep.
[And please keep my sin to yourself!]
Oh, and it's got a neat cover.