Caring about what other people think of us could be one of our strongest preoccupations. Many of us have a deep interest in trying to control what people think. A bad reputation could mean rejection – the worst thing we could possibly imagine.
On a recent trip to Italy, my husband and I thought we’d make use of our hotel’s paddling boards. Paddleboarding (for those of you who don’t know), is what appears to be quite an easy and leisurely exercise. You simply stand on an extra-large surfboard and float on water, using a large paddle to steer and manoeuvre yourself along.
Having both paddleboarded before, we assumed this time would be just as easy. We got out boards and began heading for the lake. I should mention that all this took place on a private beach. The sand was lined with a handful of beach beds, hosting our fellow hotel guests, all who had nothing better to do than lay there watching us try and stand on our paddle boards. Here our composure began to dwindle. As we attempted to reach the water, we staggered over sharp and slippery rocks, holding an 8ft board and matching paddle. Once we finally got on top of the board in the water, we quickly learnt that these boards were much shorter than what we were used to and any attempt at trying to stand, would surely fail – a risk we just weren’t prepared to take with everyone on shore watching. Surely all the other hotel guests were thinking, “Haha! Look at those two trying to stand, acting all confident. I can’t wait to see them fall in!”
Here’s the lesson for today: what other people are thinking is none of your business!
This is what happened because we cared what other people were thinking:
- We didn’t utilise the full capacity of the board.
- We were less present in the moment, and more consumed with what the people were possibly thinking.
- We stayed comfortable, out of fear of failing.
- We didn’t learn anything or grow in our paddleboarding skills.
When we are so focused on the opinions of others, the quality of our life, and whom we are called to be is immensely watered down. When the fear of man governs our lives, we don’t try new things, we aren’t present, we fear mistakes, cap creativity, and don’t grow. All because we are afraid of rejection. We play it safe, doing anything to avoid looking like a fool. “If I pray for them, I’ll look like a crazy Christian.”
“If I pray and they don’t get healed, what will they think?”
“If I step out and encourage that person, they will think I want something from them.”
“If I speak out what I feel God is saying, it might not happen.”
When we aren’t sure of who we are, we look to others for the definition. That is why we care so much about what they think. The problem with that is that the people we are looking to assess us, use a different grading system to God. While the world will assess on ability, personality, body type, and finances, God judges us based on the performance of Jesus – whose performance was perfection! We’ve already scored the perfect grade. We can therefore no longer be consumed with the thoughts of others when we have already been defined!
In the wisdom of 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12, ‘…aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one.’
Focus on what is your business and let your business be whatever God is telling you. You won’t get any work done looking around for the constant approval of others.
The amazing thing is that as you fix your focus from multiple opinions to the simplicity of only God’s opinion, your life naturally produces a reputation of integrity and fruit.
A daily devotion for a better way of living.