«The fear of man brings a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord shall be safe» (Proverbs 29:25).
«I feel that God wants me to stop hiding,» my friend told me one day while we were walking in the park. We were talking about how hard it is to be authentic, to say what we really think with love and respect and to set limits. It is difficult for us because, even if we don’t want to admit it, we seek the approval of others. This is what the Bible calls «the fear of man,» and it can become an addiction.
It is normal to want to get along with family, friends, and colleagues. We all occasionally do things we don’t want to do for the good of others. However, when we sacrifice our physical, mental, or emotional integrity, we are worshipping at the altar of what they will say. When we work many more hours than we are paid for to demonstrate our professional ability; when we don’t share timely advice so as not to offend a friend; when we do not set limits and allow people to disrespect us continually by not arguing; when we do all this, we are slaves of the opinions of others, addicted to approval. These are acts of emotional cowardice.
Jesus showed us how to live courageously by doing and saying the right thing even if others don’t like it. One day, Jesus taught about hypocrisy. «Then His disciples came and said to Him, ‘Do You know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this saying?’ » (Matthew 15:12). So surprised were the disciples with the frankness and integrity of Jesus that they believed He had not noticed that He had offended the Pharisees!
Following Christ means having the courage (not the intention) to offend if absolutely necessary. As we learn to depend on God’s approval, not that of others, we receive freedom. After all, the person whose approval we desire most (or whose disapproval we fear the most) has tremendous power in our lives, a power that belongs only to God.
Dear Lord, I confess that I’m too worried about what others think about me. Free me from the fear of what they will say and fill me with Your holy courage. I want to live to please You for the glory of Your name. Amen.