(repost from June 2008)
"Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe." Prov. 29:25
Approval. Popularity. Respect. We drive toward the esteem of our peers, our co-workers, our neighbors, our fellow church-goers. We seek their nods, their smiles, their friendship. But what happens when we must follow a course that takes us in direct collision with the opinions of others? What will happen if we cut ourselves off from their positive positions on our personhoods?
M and I struggle with the people-pleasing gene. We are achievers, M having originally worked in politics, me in television and radio. The opinion of the 'people', the pundits and the viewers, marked the success or failure of our endeavors. It's been a hard habit to break, this desire to please our peers. What to do when the client is unhappy, when the co-worker wants participation in a large project, when the acquaintance doesn't understand the time constraints of running a large family, when the church committee wants more involvement from us? How do we retain hearts that are open to encouragement, input and instruction from others and yet avoid the trap of caring too much what they think?
Perhaps the boundary line must be set when we cross over into a zone which considers more strongly the possible response of others instead of the leading of the Lord. When I take on one more friendship responsibility so as 'not to hurt so-and-so's feelings' instead of maintaining a reasonable schedule, I'm into fear. When the commitment I made to spend extra time serving my family is compromised by an outside project, I've substituted the good for the great. When I seek outside endorsement instead of internal peace, I've crossed into a currency of 'what others think'. And yet, shouldn't the opinion of the Most High, the rating of the Creator, be the one source I seek? There I am kept safe, safe from the whims, the pettiness, and yes, sometimes the selfishness, of those around me. I can stay the course because the course is protected, protected from fears, foibles and fancies. And I take from this verse this treasure, to love my neighbor, to love my fellow man, but to not fear his displeasure, to not fear his opinion, to not be swayed by his personality when I know I am fulfilling a task the Lord has for me. Let us not be trapped by the forum of public opinion.