The apostle Paul says something startling in Galatians 1:10 — “If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.”
There it is. We are either seeking to please man or we are seeking to serve Christ.
Many people (myself included) battle with caring too much about people’s approval. In his excellent book, When People Are Big and God is Small, Ed Welch provides these symptoms of the fear of man:
- Are you over-committed? Do you find it hard to say no even when wisdom indicates that you should? You are a ‘people-pleaser,’ a euphemism for the fear of man.
- Do you ‘need’ something from your spouse? Do you ‘need’ your spouse to listen to you? Respect you?
- Is self-esteem a critical concern for you? … If self-esteem is a recurring theme for you, chances are that your life revolves around what others think. You reverence or fear their opinions. You need them to buttress your sense of well-being and identity.
- Do you ever feel as if you might be exposed as an impostor? … It means the opinions of other people — especially their possible opinion that you are failure — are able to control you.
- Are you always second-guessing decisions because of what other people might think? Are you afraid of making mistakes that will make you look bad in other people’s eyes?
- Do you easily get embarrassed? If so, people and their perceived opinions probably define you. Or, to use biblical language, you exalt the opinions of others to the point where you are ruled by them.
- Do you ever lie, especially the little white lies? What about cover-ups where you are not technically lying with your mouth? Lying and other forms of living in the dark are usually ways to make ourselves look better before other people. They also serve to cover our shame before them.
- Do other people often make you angry or depressed? … If so, they are probably the controlling center of your life.
- Do you avoid people? If so, even though you might not say that you need people, you are still controlled by them.
- Have you ever been too timid to share your faith in Christ because others might think you are an irrational fool?
What would you add? How have you seen these in yourself or in others?