This is a translation of a scriptural meditation from the Russian book, “Day by Day”:
Scripture: “Each of us should please his neighbor for his good, to edify him” (Rom: 15, 2)
The obligation to please our neighbor flows directly from the great teaching of Christian love; but what should we try to do and what should we strive for in pleasing him? Our love, of course, should not be expressed in the indulgence of any whim or in senseless praise that feeds conceit. In all our words and actions and in our relations with those close to us we must always keep in mind solely that which can be for their good, for their edification.
In the earthly life of our Savior we see a living example of this love, combined with firmness. The Savior wished good for all, and goodness and humility emanated from Him. But He never shied away from the truth, never hesitated to justly and directly denounce evil. The meaning of His words was always clear, and those around Him knew that the smallest hint of evil would not escape Him. In imitating this all-encompassing love of Christ, we will learn to please our neighbor in such a way that it does not harm him, but benefits him.
Let humility fill our every word and deed, and if we need to criticize, let it be in a spirit of humility which softens everything that could be hurtful. Let us be careful not to push away through an ill-considered word someone whom we want to help.
To edify means to build up, and such is the aim of true love. When our life touches the lives of those close to us let us remember that the Lord sends us to be a blessing everywhere we go, and everywhere, in the person of our neighbor, we must do something for the Lord Himself. So we must constantly look for a chance to do good and to be always prepared to renounce our will for the benefit of our neighbor. Let us not forget that the same Holy Scripture which teaches us to please tells us not to be “people-pleasers, but slaves of Christ, fulfilling God’s will from the heart” (Eph: 6, 6). God’s will should guide our service to people. Only then will it truly be “for their good”.
In Lewis’s works, one example of pleasing someone in a bad way is the White Witch offering Turkish Delight to Edmund in exchange for his cooperation. An example of pleasing someone in a good (very good) way is Aslan’s sacrificing Himself in order to save Edmund.
“Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. Love does not demand its own way. Love is not irritable, and it keeps no record of when it has been wronged. It is never glad about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. Love will last forever.” (1 Corinthians 13: 4-8)