I specifically remember a time when I was 9th grade where I was taking a test using one of those scantron sheets where you would fill in the blank on multiple choice questions (by the way did anyone figure out yet the idea that C is the best answer to choose when guess-answering a question on a multiple choice test? Because I have been telling people that for years) and not having the guts to tell the person next to me that they couldn’t cheat. With clear directions from the teacher that people who are helping other people cheat, my brain raced with ways in which I could please both the struggling student wanting to copy my answers and the teacher who did not tolerate lying. My fear of failing people was so strong that the only thought that came to my brain was allowing for my classmate to cheat off my answers and then as he turned in his paper go back and erase my entire sheet of paper and fill in the blanks with the correct answers on some of the questions I purposefully answered wrong.
I know exactly what you’re thinking but before you give me a dirty look through a screen on your fancy iPad let me just tell you that the fear of man is strong within me. There is something about living for people’s approval and clinging onto their words that has always fueled me. I’m learning however, that as much as I get fueled by the praise I might receive from pleasing people, I have also been rejected, torn down and completely felt like a failure for not meeting every person’s demands or expectations. Is it a sin to love on others and serve them? Absolutely not. Is it a sin when pleasing people around you becomes an obsession? Absolutely yes. Why is it be a sin to always be the yes man you ask? Because at the heart of the issue you become the man or woman who will always say yes out of fear for displeasing someone.
“If you live for people’s acceptance you will die from their rejection.” Lecrae
The Bible calls this the “fear of man” which is a need in your life for approval found in others instead of God. This can be one of the greatest road-blocks to serving the Lord because of how deceptive this mindset can be. Making sure I have a good image is important right? Loving people always and being available for them every waking moment is what I’m called to do as a Christian right? Feeling needed is important in my life right? The truth is at the root of what we’re dealing with, we become people who are over committed, have low self-esteem, and are always second guessing decisions because of what other people might think. This is where my God comes in because none of us we’re meant to live for other people. We have the opportunity to be called to bigger things, to serve and glorify someone else who loves us unconditionally and that someone is God. Be encouraged and know that God doesn’t want you to settle with your life being a roller coaster of pleasing everyone and then disappointing everyone. You can be free and love a God who doesn’t want you to live in fear. Here are a few tips I’ve picked up along the way that are still helping me deal with this issue that is so personal to me.
Face the Fear
“Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” – James 5:16
In order to overcome struggles, I have to confess that I have them first. Pray over your fear and expose it for the sin that it is. Dig into the roots of why you behave or make decisions the way you do and ask yourself if your heart is in seeking a deep love for Jesus. Being obedient to God is living in faith not fear. Face your fear and trust that God is doing big things in your life!
In God I have put my trust; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?”- Psalm 56:11.
“The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD is safe” (Proverbs 29:25).
Become strict to your schedule and plan out your days so that you can seize the time you have to be most effective. The need for other people should become less as the love for other people becomes more. Out of obedience to Christ, and as a response to his love toward you, pursue others in love. Place the necessary boundaries in your life to intentionally love rather than having to fear and serve.
Be humble and loving
“Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience,”- Colossians 3:12
I’m learning that in everything we do, let’s go back to the gospel. Christ lived in such a way he was able to serve others in love without placing people as idols in His life. Every conversation that you have show humility and love. Don’t feel the urgency to become ridged or without feelings just because you might have to say “No” a few times or don’t live up to what others might be asking of you. Put off pride, ego, resentment, and timidity and put on boldness, confidence, and faith that God’s will for your life might look different.
Realize not everyone will like you
This is probably the point that I struggle with the most because who doesn’t want to be liked? The truth of the matter is that you’re not perfect. You’re a sinner just like everyone else and you will from time to time fail. Don’t be discouraged, don’t walk away from faith, get back up and take the rejections you get with grace. I’ve heard a pastor once say “If you are in Christ, you still might have a lot of things to improve, but you never have anything to prove.” People are not always going to see every aspect of your life and how you’re growing in Christ. Throughout the life of Jesus he faced people who disagreed with Him, despised Him, and looked down on Him. But He didn’t let any of this stop Him from doing the work that He was on earth to do. This speaks true in your life: whatever resistance you might be getting from people, lean on God and be active in the process of sanctification.
“For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant[a] of Christ.”- Galatians 1:10
At the end of the day the only one that you should fear is the one that has set you free. Making sure people are pleased is not your job. Live for the Lord and not for man. Pursue complete freedom found in obedience for the one who knows you and loves you best. Speaking from someone who probably struggles with this more than most, when people become big then God becomes small.