Friday, June 08, 2012
Should You Care What People Think About You?
I'll be transparent and say, I know whose opinion should matter most to me. I know it in my mind. But when it comes to actual living out my faith, it's a constant surrender.
Why is that?
I think part of it is conditioning. From an early age we learn that the opinions of other's matter. We seek the approval of parents, siblings, teachers, and friends. We uncover their expectations for our behavior, our personality, how we look, dress, and talk. And we find out that acceptance from others feels great, and rejection feels lousy.
I'm All Shook Up... Mmhmmm
I'll never forget when I was in the 6th grade and I was invited to Wendy Conrad's birthday party. Wendy was one of the popular girls in my class. She had a pretty face, cool clothes, and she even had a cute boyfriend.
The day Wendy handed me the invitation to her birthday was a day of shock and awe. Because it meant Wendy saw something in me. And if Wendy was willing to invite me, maybe Tracy would too, and Jessica, and who knows what kind of possibilities could break open for my social status?
The invitation for Wendy's party said to come 'dressed like your favorite rockstar.' I didn't even own a stereo, so I had no clue who to dress like. My two ideas were the Beach Boys, because Holly's dad would blast them loudly when he'd work in the garage, or maybe the Grateful Dead because my dad mentioned they were good. But those were bands! I needed to be a person, a STAR.
My mom and I decided I'd dress up like Elvis. He was the Grand Poobah of rock-and-roll, wasn't he? I slicked my hair back, rolled up my jeans and white shirt sleeves, and strutted into a glamour party of Madonnas, Cindy Laupers, and Debbie Gibsons.
"Who are you?" Wendy asked, in front of a room of Pink Ladies. "I'm Elvis!" I giggled. "ELVIS?!" and the room erupted with hysterical laughter--laughing at me and the card deck rolled up on my left arm. "You came to my party dressed as Elvis?" she mocked. Later when I had to lip sync "I'm All Shook Up" they were rolling on the ground like hyenas.
Rejection, Acceptance, and Making the Top 5
We all can remember times when we were rejected for who we were. It doesn't feel good to be laughed at, to stick out, to be mocked. We learn to do whatever we can to avoid never having to feel this way again.
It's even worse when you are rejected for something you cannot change. Your hair. Your skin color. Your long legs. Your nose. Or the social status you were born into.
And we hear stories of people who were rejected because of choices they made. Because they married someone they probably shouldn't have, chose a path that made no sense, adopted multiple children, moved to another country, committed a sin, and so on.
Not only do we attempt to avoid feeling rejection, but we also want to feel the pleasure of acceptance. We perk up when Wendys invite us, and we gain confidence when a popular chap asks us to dinner. When someone compliments our skirt or our hair, our home, our skills, our personality or talents, our insides flutter. I belong. She likes what she sees. He thinks I'm talented.
My friend, Matt, had a top 5 list in college: top 5 quality girls, top 5 quality guys. I was in his top 5. I loved knowing and being in his top 5. Matt was one of the hardest working, brilliant people at Westmont, and his opinion mattered greatly to me. For two years I worried I'd slip out of his top 5.
The rush of knowing you've been invited, that your presence is requested, that the pretty girl thinks you're pretty too, or the super smart guy thinks you're super smart too, that you've landed on the top of someone's list, it's addicting, isn't it?
You Can't Please Them All and You Can't Serve Two Masters
Matt gave up his top 5 list (and we are still very good friends). Today I don't know where Wendy Conrad even is. The reality is, people are fickle, and they change. The majority of people you know move in and out of your life like the wind. Your friend might think you're talented (right now), until someone more talented comes along. Another person may like you today (but she might not tomorrow).
Additionally, there are just too many people 'out there' to please. Teachers know this. Politicians too. Pastors, definitely. People think differently, and there are too many opinions to go around. In spending ridiculous amounts of time trying not to offend anyone, trying not to be rejected, you'll never leave a mark at all. One person might find you interesting and worthy of friendship, while another person finds you annoying and not worth their time. One contingency thinks your approach is solid while the other chastises you for prioritizing the wrong thing. You and I are in an unwinnable battle if we allow another person's opinions to matter too much. If you place value in the opinions of man, you'll live in a state of constant whiplash, snapped back and forth between acceptance and rejection based on what they think about you. No human should have that kind of control over your confidence and identity.
It comes down to this. If you are a follower of Jesus, you cannot serve two masters. There is only one opinion that matters. You have to re-condition yourself to caring most about His opinion.
What does He think of your parenting?
What does He think about your body, face, and your external and internal self?
What does He think about your attitude?
What does He think about how you're spending your money?
What does He think about your friendships?
What does He think about the way you handled that conflict?
What does He think about your career, your profession?
What does He think about the sermon you preached?
What does He think about your dream?
Caring less about the opinions of others begins with caring most about His opinion. We must consciously choose to:
Care more about what He thinks instead of what others think.
Care more about what He says more than what anyone else says.
Care more about what He cares about than about what we care about.
Care more about the rejection and insecurity of others instead of our own rejection and insecurity.
Care more about His Gospel advancing, than our own work or dreams or vision advancing.
I'm not saying we ignore the feelings and insights and opinions of others. Because they matter. They really do. What other people think and feel and say is important. I'm also not suggesting that in 'caring less' we have creative license to be jerks or islands: "Who gives a rip what you think?" That's not God honoring.
I'm simply saying that I personally, (and probably you too because you were programmed like all of us with a desire for acceptance and a fear of rejection), can fall prey to caring too deeply about the opinions of other sinful people--people who are good but can still be selfishly motivated, threatened, insecure, judgemental, and tempted to ruin.
I'm doing my best to choose.
"Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ." Galatians 1:10
What about you? Is this a struggle you relate with? Have you ever been rejected or felt the 'high' of man's approval? How do you think we, as Christians, can learn to consciously choose God's values/opinions over man's?