What It Means to be Afraid of Someone
I still remember how clueless I was as my friend confronted me. She was giving me advice over a challenging relationship in my life. Having shared with her my ongoing struggles, she looked me square in the eye and said, “Gretchen, you are afraid of _________.” Without any hesitation, I said “Yes! And you would be too if you knew _________.” Even at that point in the conversation, I still didn’t see anything wrong with my fear.
My trusted friend reminded me that God says we are not to fear anyone except Him (Matt. 10:28). All of a sudden, it was like a lightbulb went off. I realized that my fear of another person was wrong. It was causing me to conform to their desired image of me in order to appease them. I felt pressure to change who I was in order to keep them happy. When I was with them, I couldn’t be my true self. I was just trying to stay out of trouble and that left me exhausted.
Not only was I afraid of making them upset, I ultimately feared their rejection. Isn’t that the heart of people-pleasing? Conforming so that we make others happy in order to remain in their good-standing? Their love is conditional and we know it!
I realized for the first time that day that my fear of man (people-pleasing) was an attempt to win the approval (love) of others so that I would not feel their sting of rejection. Fear of rejection was at the heart of my striving to gain/remain in the good grace of another. It fueled my insecurity because I knew I was not loved for who I was but for who they wanted me to be.
Through words or body language, they readily communicated their displeasure. What was conveyed was that I should agree with their version of “me”. My compliance would keep them happy.
Adding to this burden, over-responsibility can go hand in hand with people-pleasing. This made the pressure feel worse from the emotional well-being of others being placed upon my shoulders.
Why God Doesn’t Want Us to Live This Way
When I am in people-pleasing mode, I cannot be my true self. I am changing in order to find acceptance and love. At that moment, I am believing a lie that my worth is based upon meeting someone else’s expectations. What they think or feel about me becomes supreme.
Knowing the pitfalls of this mentality, God addressed this plainly in Proverbs 29:25.
Fear of man will prove to be a snare,
but whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe.
God is the very opposite of this kind of “love”. He loves us unconditionally, through the “good graces” of Jesus Christ. His love for us as believers is unfailing and never-changing. He does not love us more when we are good nor love us less when we are bad. Why then would He want us to strive for the affirmation of others when we don’t have to do that with Him?God does not expect me to jump through anyone's hoop in order to please them. I am already fully loved and accepted through Jesus Christ. Click To Tweet
Trusting in the Lord for His validation creates inner security for us. We don’t have to jump through hoops or ring any bells in order to be loved or feel loved. Because His love is steadfast, we can feel affirmed each and every day.
Going Back to the Word for Our Mindset
Continually going back to God’s Word for correct thinking is key for overcoming the pressure to conform to the expectations of those that intimidate me. I cannot WILL myself to NOT fear necessarily but I can replace falsehood with Truth, which does impact my feelings.
Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. Romans 8:1-2
Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. V. 5-6
These verses in Romans place the responsibility BACK ON ME for how I process people-pleasing. My flesh may desire very much to meet the expectations of others but God teaches me that isn’t what matters most in life. Living according to the Spirit, depending upon God to convict me when I am in the wrong or affirm me when I am not, THAT is what is to govern me, not the approval of others. This allows God to set the tone of my life, who I am as a child of God and how He wants me to develop.
What Steps Can Help Us Break Free From People-Pleasing
Once I understood that being afraid of others was not what God intended and that the root of the fear was about rejection, I found ways to process those moments more productively. I COULD find freedom from the temptation to cave in to the pressure from others and so can you!
- Recognize the tension. I used to automatically conform to the expectations of others but now I have learned to stop and evaluate either the truth that I am forgetting or the lie I am believing. Feelings are meant to give us a heads-up about something that may need examining. They are our signal that something is wrong.
- Run to God. At that moment when I feel the tension, there is a choice. I can either acquiesce to the standards of others or I can inwardly go to God for His conviction, direction or affirmation. He has the correct response EVERY time! I can never go wrong with seeking His opinion at any given moment.
- Remember what God has said. I can hear God in those moments whisper, “Don’t let what you feel make you forget what I have said.” I may feel rejection, pressure, or fear but that doesn’t take precedence over the eternal Truth of God. What He says matters most, more than what I feel or what others communicate to me.
- Respond with gracious courage. There is no way around this one. I am either going to cave in or I am going to remain steadfast. It will take courage to withstand pressure or to process rejection. This never gives me the right to be anything other than gracious and kind. Jesus exemplified gracious courage continually so He is our model for this.
- Reject the pressure to conform. I don’t have to jump through anyone’s hoop or ring their bell because I am already fully loved and accepted through Jesus Christ. I measure up through His righteousness.
- Re-establish corrected expectations or boundaries. There are just some people I don’t need to be around very much because they bring out the worst in me. I can be a perfectionist and insecure so I try to avoid those who tempt me to respond that way. For those I cannot avoid, I try to adjust my expectations of them. They are placing the pressure on me to conform to their standard because of their own struggles. I can have compassion on that.
What Freedom Looks Like
By God’s grace and truth, I can be who He has created me to be, whether that is affirmed by others or even my own impossible standards. I may not be the –
I “should” be yet, but I am convinced that I am a work in progress and that God has a beautiful end result in mind which is Christlikeness. He is not finished with me yet and praise God for that! I am free to be me, knowing that He is continually refining what needs to change. Thankfully, I can trust His plan/process while I say good-bye to people-pleasing.
I don’t have to live in fear of rejection from others nor under the weight of responsibility for their feelings. Neither do you! We can feel the security of knowing God is molding us in the image He wants regardless of the opinions of those around us. With assurance, we can enter each day knowing full well that He is mightily at work on our Christlike transformation. He is our Refiner and no one else.
Who could hope for anything better than that?! Let freedom ring!
Questions for reflection-
- Is there a pressure to conform that I live with in my life? From whom am I feeling this pressure to please?
- What is at the root of their pressure? Is it in my best interest or theirs? Are they trying to control me or help me?
- Am I going to God on a regular basis to ask His opinion on any changes I need to incorporate in my life?
- What are some practiced responses I can have ready the next time I feel the need to please others?
I am so honored to join Alisa Nicaud’s “from FEAR to FREEDOM” blog tour this month. My post is one of 30 for insight into breaking free from fear. Please go to this link for a complete list of all 30 posts to help you live bold and brave!
CLICK THE IMAGE ABOVE TO GET TO THE LINK FOR SIGNING UP!