Whenever people start to make changes in their lives, or even just think about making changes, one of their first responses is fear – fear of how they will be perceived by others. The origin of that emotion goes to a core fear that they will be rejected by others, and thus find themselves alone in the world. It is a universal fear.
This fear is so strong that it keeps people chained to unhealthy lifestyles and an unhappy life for a lifetime.
The most common scenario for me to see this dynamic playing out is with people who have lived a codependent life. The codependent does a poor job of taking care of themselves, never verbalizes their own needs or opinions, and has very poor boundaries with others, allowing others to take advantage of them. (See previous articles on the topic: Breaking Free of the Chameleon Life, The Preacher’s Wife, It’s Not Always About You.)
I spent half of my life enslaved to this fear. Anxiety lurked just outside the door of my heart. My life was not a joy-filled life, though no one would have known because I was so good at faking it.
The apostle Paul must have found himself battling similar demons. He lived two starkly different lives. The one prior to his encounter with Christ on the road to Damascus and the one he lived after meeting Ananias in Damascus.
Who would he try to please with his life? Those who wanted him to return to persecuting christians? Those who wanted him to preach Christ only to Jews and not Gentiles? Those who knew him only as God’s servant?
It must have been out of his frustration with pleasing people that he wrote, “It matters very little to me what you think of me, even less where I rank in popular opinion.” (I Corinthians 4:3 The Message). Paul decided to draw a line in the sand. He came to the place where all he was concerned with was pleasing God, not people.
That is the solution for everyone who allows public opinion to dictate to them how they should act.
We have no control over what people think of us. How they view us is dictated by their own lifestyle, beliefs, prejudices, opinions, etc. That’s why living to please others will make you miserable – there will always be someone who does not like what you are doing!
I’m certainly not suggesting we should have an inflated, egotistical view of ourselves, believing we are always right and never wrong. Our focus needs to be on walking the walk and talking the talk that Christ commands us to. We must always approach him in humility, listening to his Word, and making changes when we are living contrary to his will.
One thing you will learn as you make positive changes, healthy people will embrace you and encourage you to continue on your new path. They are the ones standing in the balcony as you come parading by, cheering you on! And those are the people you need to spend more time with.
Keep the naysayers in your rearview mirror.