The Folly of Trying to Please Everyone

Donkey FableFrom Aesop’s Fables is this story with a great moral–The Man, The Boy, and The Donkey.

A man and his son were once going with their donkey to market. As they were walking along by its side a countryman passed them and said: “You fools, what is a donkey for but to ride upon?” So the man put the boy on the donkey and they went on their way.

But soon they passed a group of men, one of whom said: “See that lazy youngster, he lets his father walk while he rides.”  So the man ordered his boy to get off, and got on himself.

But they hadn’t gone far when they passed two women, one of whom said to the other: “Shame on that lazy lout to let his poor little son trudge along.”

Well, the man didn’t know what to do, but at last he took his boy up before him on the donkey. By this time they had come to the town, and the passers-by began to jeer and point at them. The man stopped and asked what they were scoffing at. The men said: “Aren’t you ashamed of yourself for overloading that poor donkey of yours—you and your hulking son?”

The man and boy got off and tried to think what to do. They thought and they thought, till at last they cut down a pole, tied the donkey’s feet to it, and raised the pole and the donkey to their shoulders.

They went along amid the laughter of all who met them till they came to Market Bridge, when the donkey, getting one of his feet loose, kicked out and caused the boy to drop his end of the pole. In the struggle the donkey fell over the bridge, and his fore-feet being tied together he was drowned

“That will teach you,” said an old man who had followed them: “Please all, and you will please none.”

The lesson from this ancient Greek story-teller is as applicable today as it was 2500 years ago. It’s impossible to please everyone. This is true in sports, government, business and even in the Lord’s church.

Coaches, politicians, and CEO’s as well as preachers and pastors who try to please everyone, appease every opinion, and placate every personal whim or fancy by the masses, will eventually please no one. And like the characters in the fable will probably see their donkey drown.

From a spiritual perspective our foremost desire should be to please the Lord. Paul expressed it with these rhetorical questions: “For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man?” His response was simple, ” If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ” (Gal. 1:10).

Not everyone will be pleased with the Truth. Some deny it. Others don’t like to hear it. And many disregard it. Yet Pastors, Preachers, and Bible Teachers must base their teaching and their decisions on the revealed Word of God. Neither customs, culture or circumstances change what is right.

Of course, there are many things in the realm of scriptural expediency. Means and methods of ministry vary from church to church and preacher to preacher. You will never have 100% agreement in a congregation regarding a specific area of judgment. Someone always has a different opinion. A better idea. A better way to do it. A better way to say it.

There probably is a kernel of truth in every criticism. The trick is to look for it and profit from it. However, critics will drive you crazy, if you let them. Dr. Charles Lever was right when he wrote, “There comes a time in our lives when we have to tune out the antagonists and follow our own advice.”

John Mason offered excellence insight when he said, “The first great commandment about critics is, “Don’t let them scare you.” Or as the wise man wrote, “The fear of human opinion disables; trusting in God protects you from that” (Prov 29:25).

When we accept that it’s impossible to please everyone, then it’s easier to deal with it. After all, the donkey you save, may be your own!

–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman


Filed under Criticism

4 responses to “The Folly of Trying to Please Everyone

  1. I’ve asked this question before — Did Paul ever compromise on something to achieve a “big picture” goal/prize? I think he did.


    • He never compromised the Gospel. (Gal 1:6-10; 1 Cor 4:17; 1Cor 9:16). But he compromised on opinions, customs, and matters of expediency that don’t compromise the doctrine of Christ–i.e. eating of meat (1Cor 8) and means and methods of teaching the gospel to all people (1Cor 9:24-27) and the issue of circumcision (Ax 16:3; Gal 5:6)


  2. Don Johnson

    I had a sign in my office once that read, “I can only please one person each day. Today is not your day, Tomorrow is not looking good either.” I just hope I can please god.


  3. Pingback: The Folly of Trying to Please Everyone | Lions Share SOcial Media

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