To Care or Not to Care What People Think?

DSC_0312 copyI have a confession: I care too much about what people think of me. It's embarrassing how much I care, actually. Within my inner being, I have a desire to please people. Often times more than my desire to please God.

Am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I striving to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ. Galations 1:10

  It's easy for me to rationalize this, because my relationship with God is never based on my performance. I know He loves me at my worst and at my best. When I fail, He forgives. When I do something worthy of praise, His love is unchanging. It's not based on my ability. It's not based on anything I say or do. It's a relationship centered on what He has already done for me and there is nothing I could do to repay Him. I am but clay in His hands. Being molded and refined in the process.

Yet, my relationship with people is different. They are the ones I have to please.

There is a lot expected of Christians, in general, to live... well, perfect. I heard someone the other day make the common complaint about how Christians are so "hypocritical." And I wanted to cry. Because I felt like she was talking about me.

I am a hypocrite. I always will be. I will never live perfectly what I preach. Because, I preach a gospel that says I don't have to be.

Yet, I work hard at proving myself to others anyway. As Emily Freeman says in her book Grace for the Good Girl, "Because I care so much what you think... I desperately want to manage your opinion of me. Nearly everything I do is to convince you I am good. If I sense any hint of disbelief on your part that I am good, if it seems your opinion is other than what I wish it to be, it becomes my job to change your mind."

It's one thing to say you don't care what people think about you, but it's another thing to live like it.

Woe to you when everyone speaks well of you, for that is how their ancestors treated the false prophets. Luke 6:26

  I have to be honest, I find so much comfort in this verse. Lately, I have felt like I've been under a spiritual attack. The enemy has been speaking lies over me. That I am no good. That people don't like me. And of course, using little situations to remind me of this constantly.

It is no coincidence that God led me to this verse tonight. To help me realize that not everyone will speak well of me, and that it is okay. Many of the Pharisees had strong opinions about Jesus and questioned the way he said and did things. A lot of perceptions were made. A lot of judgement cast. And many people chose not to follow him because of it. I am in good company. 

But a desire to please people is not completely unbiblical. Proverbs 22:1 says, "Choose a good reputation over great riches; being held in high esteem is better than silver or gold." And 1 Peter 2:12 explains why good works are important, "Be careful to live properly among your unbelieving neighbors. Then even if they accuse you of doing wrong, they will see your honorable behavior, and they will give honor to God when he judges the world."

So how do we battle this conflict within us to "care or not to care" what people think?

By realizing at the heart of it all, our true desire should be caring what people think about Jesus.  And in many ways, that's why I take my reputation so seriously. Because I am a reflection of His grace and love - and if they reject me, I worry they will reject Him.

But honestly? If someone rejects the grace of Jesus Christ because of me, then they obviously don't understand it. Or they would know that I am in need of it just as much as them.