Every Thursday I’ll post an article having to do with either relational or emotional matters. Hope it helps.
Like Me. Please, Like Me
The fear of man bringeth a snare: but whoso putteth his trust in the LORD shall be safe. - Proverbs 29:25
I wonder how many things you would have done, said, or at least tried, if you hadn’t been so worried about what other people would think.
The more I review my life, the madder I get at myself for letting someone else’s opinion carry so much weight. Over the years, there are too many things I’ve gone along with that I didn’t really believe in; too many times I should have spoken up but didn’t want to rock the boat; too many challenges I didn’t take on because I wondered if people would laugh at me for trying. The fear is man is, as Solomon said in the verse above, a snare.
It’s also stupid. After all, when we break down our fear of disapproval it doesn’t make too much sense. If I feel I should do something, but others disagree, what real damage is going to be done to me just because they’re not on the same page as me? In most cases, the people whose disapproval we fear have no real hold over us, other than the power we give them.
I threw that power away when it came to writing, for example, nearly forty years ago. I was 20, and had been commissioned by the ministry I worked with at the time to write a book. I tackled the project, finished the manuscript, and to get some professional feedback I showed it to an associate who was also a literary agent.
She tore me, and my book, to shreds. “Amateurish, dull, not at all readable”, she said in a handwritten note , and she finished by encouraging me to forget about writing, because I clearly had no gift for it, and stick to piano playing, which was at the time something I did a good deal of. Crushed, I decided she knew better than I, so not until I was 37 – a full 17 years later – did I ever again try my hand at writing. (And even then, I only did it because a friend of mine who was an editor talked me into giving it a try.)
Since then I’ve authored seven books, I’m a contributing writer to a respected quarterly journal, and I’ve had the pleasure of editing and adding articles to a number of projects. I’m also small change in the scheme of things, since my books are by no means best sellers, but the point is I foolishly allowed someone else’s opinion to squash something that was both a goal and a passion. Like I said, stupid.
But understandable, right? I mean, people’s opinions do matter, and I simply don’t believe anyone who says they don’t care what others think of them. We’re created relational beings with specific needs for approval and affirmation, so to a point, caring what others think makes sense.
But not when we place the comfort of approval above our mandate to be honest, to follow what we feel called to, and to stand for what’s right. Asking our Facebook friends to Please Like Me is one thing; letting our life adventures be stymied because we fear pushback is another. Paul knew this only too well, facing violent opposition wherever he went, so he could say with authority, “If I seek to please men I should not be a servant of Christ.” (Galatians 1:10) Peter and John echoed those sentiments when, commanded by the local priests to shut about Jesus, they replied, “We ought to obey God rather than man.” (Acts 5:29) And Jesus Himself, no stranger to opposition, understood very well the danger of letting our need to be liked override our integrity when He warned, “Woe unto you when all men speak well of you!” (Luke 6:26)
I hope you and I are liked and approved of; why not? But God grant that we also keep our priorities intact. Letting our lives become what they’re meant to become often carries a heavy price, like being misunderstood, opposed, even hated. So be it. If I must say Like Me, Please Like Me, let me say those words to God, and my own conscience, in that order. Because if those two are satisfied, I think I can live with the Unlikes I’m certain to get along the way.