In high school, I knew laughing at a dirty joke was wrong, but I did, and would even follow it up with another dirty joke. Why? To be funny? Because I was sexually pre-occupied? No! Because I feared the rejection of my peers. I didn’t want to be left out of their popular group, or be laughed at for being too straight-laced. Although good at many activities, I was still insecure and needed people’s approval.
For many of us, fear of people’s opinions is so deeply ingrained in our minds and our hearts that it’s woven into the daily fabric of our life and decision-making. Fear debilitates us in so many relationships in so many ways. Fear of bodily harm is blatantly impacting. But while common when we are children, it is fairly uncommon for most adults relationships, except for the tragedy of domestic violence.
For most adults though, fear of others creeps up on us in more subtle ways. Like the fear of being rejected …or being left out … maybe not being accepted … or looking foolish in another person’s eye. Fear could be someone judging you as incompetent or just not being valued. We never set out to be afraid of these things, but due to past hurts or mistakes, these anxieties secretively, but powerfully, warp our relational lenses. This can affect our relationships with those very close to us like our spouses, and also affect how we act in front of total strangers.
While trying to be a “people-pleaser” may appear harmless on the surface, it can create crippling fear. Elevating other’s assessment of us to idol status, worshipping it, is what we are actually doing. People-pleasing usually requires us to compromise truthful, healthy functioning and replace it with dysfunctional, distorted processing and behavior. Often, we ultimately choose to please others and displease God, instead of displeasing others to please God. Fear of displeasing others allows this downward spiral to accelerate and we then feel out of control, because we have given control and power of our life-steering mechanism to the people whose positive opinions we crave.
Today, watch you interactions with others. How much of your conduct is shaped by wanting to please them? Do you think about what God wants from you in that situation? Begin replacing the fear of displeasing others with the sadness of displeasing the One who faced total rejection and death for you, Your Lord. Make pleasing Him your highest priority. In general, we try to please people so that they will give us what we want … approval, value, importance, hope, love, acceptance, forgiveness, destiny, safety, or comfort. Turn your trust to God who is the only source of providing all these things, and so much more … everyday.
Dear Father, I am just beginning to realize just how fearful I am of others. I confess, Father, to being a “people-pleaser.” I am too concerned about displeasing others and looking foolish in their eyes. Help free me of this fear, Father, by developing a deeper trust in You. I know that trusting in others is risky while trusting in You is safe. I know that You have everything I need … that Your riches will never run short. Father, I desire deeply to change and to eliminate my fear of others. I pray in the name of the one who died for me, Your Son Jesus Christ; and all God’s children say – AMEN!
But he said to them, “It is I; don’t be afraid.”
Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD is kept safe.
Then Nebuchadnezzar in furious rage commanded that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego be brought. So they brought these men before the king. Nebuchadnezzar answered and said to them, “Is it true, O Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the golden image that I have set up? But if you do not worship, you shall immediately be cast into a burning fiery furnace. And who is the god who will deliver you out of my hands?”
If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king.
But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.