I don’t remember what I said, but I remember the look on her face.
Well, I kind of remember what I said. One word, anyway. I was seven years old, and I wanted our guest to think I was old enough to join in conversation with the adults. As I talked with her, I dramatically accented my story with the word totally.
Not a big deal, right? But I can still picture the look on the woman’s face. She turned and grinned at my parents with an “oh, how cute” smile. Problem: I didn’t want to be seen as a child, cute or otherwise.
Since I don’t remember what I was talking about, it is possible that the woman was thinking of something else I said, but seven-year-old me assumed it was my use of totally. To avoid being seen as a little kid, I quit using the word — not only in regular conversation, but ever. Years later, in my early 20s, I realized that I still automatically switched out totally with completely or another synonym even when I was quoting someone else. I had completely purged the word from my vocabulary. Literally. Totally, you could say.
Promises for people-pleasers
Since childhood, I’ve (clearly) worried way too much about others’ opinions of me. I didn’t grow out of it, but I’m learning that God’s promises lessen the power others’ opinions hold on me. When I feel nervous or inadequate, here are a few promises that can take my eyes off my insecurities.
God sees me. In the preteen girls’ Bible study I help lead at church, we’re currently studying Galatians. Appropriate enough for this post, since one of the first verses literally calls out people-pleasers. Galatians is the only book of the Bible outside of Genesis that talks about Hagar, the mother of Ishmael. Hagar fled from Sarah when she was pregnant. As she reached the end of her rope in the wilderness, God sent an angel to her, assuring her that her son would live and father a great people. “You are the God who sees me,” Hagar said. I love that. God sees us, sees our hearts. It’s impossible for God to misunderstand us. No matter our struggle, worries, concern, aches, hurts — He knows.
God knows my limitations. Not only does He know our hearts, but He knows what we’re made of. He knows we are weak, and He doesn’t hold it against us. When I make a mistake or a social faux pas, He isn’t surprised. He already knew about my social awkwardness, and He loves me anyway.
His acceptance of me does not hinge on my performance or popularity. The other day I was reading about prayer, and the author quoted Paul Miller as saying: “We know we don’t need to clean up our act in order to become a Christian, but when it comes to praying, we forget that.”
Our God didn’t wait for us to deserve His grace before sacrificially rescuing us from our plight. Why do we think we can do anything to earn His love after the fact? Do we think there is any way we can impress Him?
God is bigger than big. When I taught preschool, my students sometimes sang this song in music class. It sounds simple at first, but as in many children’s songs and stories, there is more to it than meets the ear:
“God, You’re bigger than big,
Stronger than strong,
Yeah, You’re mightier than mighty,
And louder than this song!
Your love for me stretches farther than far:
I can’t imagine just how big You are!”
This might seem beside the point, but it’s actually crucial. When I’m wrapped up in worrying about what other people think, I’m either over-elevating myself or other people — either way, I’m completely losing sight of the power and importance of God. When Job lamented tragedy in his life and his friends just made it worse by hinting that they thought it was all his fault, God reminded Job how awesome and incomprehensibly big God is. Reminding ourselves of God’s greatness can help keep our worries and fears in check.
No matter what others think
There will always be people who have a low opinion of me, or who misunderstand my best intentions. And even when people accept me, I often worry about if or when they’ll stop. What if I fail at one of my responsibilities or make an embarrassing mistake? What will people think of me when they see me for who I really am? Even when people accept me, I often still live in fear.
But these promises are so freeing: I don’t have to build my life around people’s opinions. God promises that He sees my heart. He knows my limitations. His gifts to me don’t depend on what I can do (or can’t do). And He is bigger than any of my fears.
No matter what, I can rest in that. His promises are trustworthy.
Copyright 2022 Lauren Dunn. All Rights Reserved.