I've never been a people-pleaser. I came wired that way from the factory (sorry mom). All my life I've tried to do what I thought was best with very little consideration for the approval of others. As a teen, peer pressure was a concept to me, not a reality. So what if everyone else was doing it? It wasn't important to me. Such perception is a strength as well as a weakness.
The weakness springs to life when other people need me. As a husband, father, friend, and pastor my life is filled with people who from time to time need something from me. I've had to learn to PLEASE them appropriately.
Presence. Sometimes the best way to demonstrate love and concern is by simply being there. When someone dies there is nothing you can do or say to change things. Just being there is enough. I remember well when Gerald passed out while driving highway 231. He hit a pine tree in front of a motel near Montgomery. He was not wearing a seat belt. His home and our church were two hours away, and I got to the hospital not long after Gerald's wife and before any other members of the family. We stood together at Gerald's side and prayed, not knowing if he would live another hour. He did. But for a while all I could do was wait with his wife. Presense was enough.
Listening. One of the most practical demonstrations of love is listening. When we take the time to hear and understand what others are saying they believe we care. I've probably done more to help the local church by sitting in rocking chairs on front porches listening to people than all the methods or strategies suggested to me through seminary or pastoral conferences combined. I think it is a trap to believe that we should talk and others should respond. People respond when we listen.
Empathy. Empathy occurs when you put yourself in someone else's place. Maybe you've never been where they are or experienced what they have, but you use that imagination God gave and try to understand what they might be going through. You feel it. You empathize. And when you do people know they matter to you.
Attention. Every Sunday at church I hear people saying, "Hey. How are you?" The answer is almost always, "Fine. You?" even when things are not fine. Some people see through our facades. Maybe this is a spiritual gift, maybe a specialized skill, but some people are good at it. No matter what you say they can see something in your eyes or hear something in your voice. They notice. They know. They pay attention. If you are serious about loving others in practical ways this is a skill you want to develop.
Service. Sometimes there are actions you can take. Driving your elderly neighbor to a doctor's appointment, mowing her yard, or changing her tire are concrete examples of service. You love people when you do for them what they cannot do for themselves.
Example. Of all the ways to demonstrate love that I have mentioned so far, this is the one most overlooked. Setting a good example can be a strong demonstration of love. Right now in the church I serve there is a lady who has struggled with liver cancer for eight years. She has made countless trips to doctors two states away. She spends thousands of dollars on medicines each year. Yet, on Sunday she not only attends worship, she serves in the church in multiple roles. I've seen her processing Sunday School records and helping in the nursery. Her example is powerful. She inspires everyone who cares to notice. She teaches us that loving God and serving God matters. She loves us by her example.
People pleasing is frowned upon, but aiming to PLEASE people honors God and is true to the Spirit of Christ.