“Cheer up luv, it might never ‘appen’” said a random guy passing me on the street. Obviously I was giving off an unusually serious vibe. Suddenly I realised this throw-away comment had sent my mind into unreasonable overdrive. ‘Why would a stranger think I’m miserable based on just a glance? I need to be different. Other people must think bad things of me.’ Was I worrying too much?
You may not worry to this extreme, but if you are honest do you ever find yourself caring a little too much about what people think or doing something with the motivation of achieving the approval of others?
In following Jesus, we are called to be selfless, to serve people, put others first and go the extra mile. Of course it is obedient and good to give freely and generously of our time and gifts. “I please all men in all things, not seeking my own profit, but the profit of the many” says 1 Corinthians 10:33.
However in seeking to do all of this I have lost track of the number of times I’ve been told, in wisdom, that I need to learn the word ‘no’. This is not to say all these things are not worthy or God-inspired but precisely in order to make sure that I do these things for the correct reasons – to bring glory to God. They say it to help me prevent burn out and to keep my motives in check.
Let’s be honest. Is there a little part of us that hopes signing up to serve at yet another church event will mean people acknowledge our sacrifice or talents? Do you make certain decisions, no matter how small, or agree with something just because you are worried you will disappoint the other person? Do you take on more and more of ‘God’s work’ because you fear judgement from others if you don’t?
All of a sudden we are allowing the opinion of others to matter more than God’s opinion – putting them before God.
We will suffer pain and withdrawal when we try to get from people what only God can give us – true unconditional acceptance, unfailing love and a sense of worth and value. Remembering our identity in Christ is the answer: “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32).
If our view of ourselves is built on what others say or think about us, then we are not believing the truth and not standing on solid rock. If we could grasp how God sees us through Christ, we could refrain from being oversensitive to what people think about us, and feeling bad about ourselves. We already have God’s approval, through Jesus, no matter what we have done or how broken we are.
When there are disagreements or clashes of character in the body of Christ, can we cope with the thought that another person may be thinking ill of us? I am slowly learning that sometimes, depending on the situation, it is not my problem if this happens. If I am right with God and through no intentional fault of my own, someone decides to harbour a bad opinion of me, I need to learn that it is OK. He knows our intentions and our hearts and will be our defence if needed.
“I’m not trying to win the approval of people, but of God. If pleasing people were my goal, I would not be Christ’s servant.” (Galatians 1:10 NLT) Oh, how I aspire to live truly for the audience of one.