Free to be Vulnerable
I was reading Jonathan Dodson’s article, “Failed Disciple,” and wondered if you could explain what he meant by, “I can tell people my sins because my identity doesn’t hang on what they think of me.”
Great question! I passed it along to Jonathan, who provided the following explanation:
I elaborate on this in the book I just released called Fight Clubs: Gospel-Centered Discipleship. Here is a relevant excerpt:
Living for Approval
When our identity is hung up on what people think of us, it becomes difficult to be honest with them. Some of us approach others from below, fearing their rejection or disapproval. In order to keep their approval intact, we refrain from allowing them to see the real, broken us. We may not lie to them (though we probably do), but we certainly don’t confess our sin to them. Why? Because we treasure their approval more than we treasure Christ. We are afraid that, if they know the real us, then they will disapprove. We lose face and friendship when we confess our sin.
Living for Applause
Others of us approach others from above, not fearing their rejection but expecting their applause. In order to keep their applause, we refrain from showing any weakness or sin. We want to be perceived as a mature Christian, a strong leader. Therefore, we do not share our sin and brokenness with others. Our identity is bound up with the applause and opinions of others. We tell white lies to keep them thinking we are mature, intelligent, etc. We say we have read a book, seen a movie, or know a person that we have not read, seen or known. We continue to build our identity, not only on the applause of others, but on what we “think” they will clap for. We get further and further from our true identity in Jesus.
Living in Christ
However, if we stake our identity in the acceptance of Jesus, this frees us to be honest about who we are, about our sin and failure. The more I rest in Jesus perfect death and resurrection for me, to make me right, loved, and accepted by the perfect Father, the less I need to appease or impress others. Chasing the approval and applause of others takes a backseat to the vastly superior love and acceptance of God in Christ. As a result, we share our real selves more. We confess sin more. Not haphazardly but earnestly. We call others to fight sin and treasure Christ. Our identity goes deeper into Christ and further away from what others think of us. this is freeing. This is the gospel.
When I’m not living for approval or living for applause, what people think of my sins shouldn’t affect my identity. Their opinions ultimately don’t change the fact that I’m dearly loved by my Creator, and that He’s completed all that’s necessary for me to become a child of His.
May I find myself living in Christ, rather than in the fearful state of living for approval or applause.