It is not hard for me to remember when the opinions of others started to matter to me. It began when I was a typical boy growing up in the ’50s. Converse Allstar sneakers came out, and all my friends wore a pair. You know, the black canvas high tops with the ball on the ankle. My parents couldn’t afford them and suggested I be content with the generic knock offs that were ¼ the price. Well, you can imagine how that went over with me. I was only nine years old, and the opinions of others had already taken on a predominant role in my life. Some call it “peer pressure.”
When I was almost 12 my parents separated after and long and bitter marital battle. When I went to school after the split, I became very aware of the fact that I was the only student in my class who was not living with both biological parents in the home. Hey, it was a different age. Today, when I teach at Lebanon High School, not a single student in my class lives with both biological parents in the home and most with neither.
Feeling like the odd man out is not a pleasant experience, and, because one of our seven instincts is to avoid pain, I made so many foolish decisions just to not stand out, but to fit in. It also led me to fail to move in the direction of God’s call and created purpose for my life, which only delayed the inevitable.
But then I started to live my life for an audience of one. Paul’s words in Galatians 1:10 became my marching orders: “Obviously, I’m not trying to win the approval of people, but of God. If pleasing people were my goal, I would not be Christ’s servant” (NLT). When that day came, it was a game-changer!
What would your life look like if you stopped worrying about what everyone else thinks? What if you decided not to get drunk with your old college buddies? What if you told your boss that, no, you can’t work late tonight, your family is depending on you? What if you were open about your struggles instead of trying to put on a good face and fake it through life? What if you kept that old clunker of a car and used your money to change a single mother’s life? What if you made the choice to spend an evening with your family instead of taking on one more responsibility at church? What if you trusted God instead of fearing man?
So many unnecessary troubles and missed opportunities can be traced back to the fear of man. Contrarily, a life of peace and fulfilled potential is always rooted in a firm trust in God. Jesus, as always, is the perfect example. He was completely indifferent to the opinions of others, yet captivated by the Father’s will. He said things to respected religious leaders that make us cringe, yet he stopped to talk to a scorned Samaritan woman. He refused to give a miraculous sign to those who demanded it, yet he cast out a legion of demons from a man who chased everyone else away.
We need to reprogram our minds and lives, don’t you think? Let’s ask God to make us into followers with backbones — disciples who have the courage to say no and the trust to stake our reputations on Christ and his way and will for our lives.