Oct 24th 2016
In high school, I knew laughing at a dirty joke was wrong. But I still did it, and would even follow it up with another one. Why? To be funny? Because I was sexually pre-occupied or horny? Because I wanted to be derogatory to women? Partly all of these. But the main reason was that I feared the rejection of my peers. I didn’t want to be left out of the popular group, or be laughed at for being too straight. Although I excelled at many activities and had confidence in some specific areas, I was still, in my core, quite insecure and craved 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 lives and decision-making. Fear debilitates us in multiple ways and in many relationships. Fear of bodily harm forms a blatant impact. But although it’s common when we are children, it is uncommon within adult relationships, except for the tragedy of domestic violence.
Fear of others creeps up on most adults in more subtle ways. Like the fear of being rejected … or being left out … or looking foolish to another person … or being judged as incompetent … or just not being valued. We never set out to be afraid of these things. But because of past hurts or mistakes, these anxieties secretively, but powerfully, warp our relational lenses. Our fears can affect our relationships with those very close to us like our spouses. They 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. What we actually do is elevate another’s assessment of us to idol status and worship it. 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. Then we feel out of control, because we have given the 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. Whether your desire and goal is to please God or you please the dysfunctional requests and needs of peers is your decision, so choose well.
Dear Father, I am 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 was rejected by the world to please You, Jesus Christ; and all God’s children say – AMEN!
But he said to them, “It is I; don’t be afraid.” John 6:20
Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD is kept safe. Proverbs 29:25
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. Daniel 3:13,14,17,18