The fear of man seems to be the besetting sin of modern Christianity. Many of us are tempted to live for the applause of others. Such people-pleasing is a sin which often gets a free pass, because it isn’t as noticeable as other sins. But it has disastrous consequences nonetheless. It creates disharmony in churches, frustration in marriages, and confusion in homes. Worst of all, it leaves the struggling soul with a nagging emptiness. Scripture says, “The fear of mankind is a snare, but the one who trusts in the Lord is protected” (Proverbs 29:25).
We all struggle with people-pleasing to some degree. For this reason, I recommend Edward Welch’s “When People are Big and God is Small.” The author unmasks humanity’s oldest idol. Since the Garden of Eden, we have tried to compensate for our insecurities by hiding our true identities. Because we have shame over our shortcomings, we all attempt to create a facade to impress others. This is exhausting work, because we can’t keep up appearances forever. Eventually someone — a spouse, a friend, a child, or a fellow-believer — will see beyond our guise.
Welch’s work offers a release from the dungeon of despair. We find freedom when we begin to live for God’s glory instead of our own. We find an even deeper freedom when we work at serving and loving others, instead of working to impress others. In the end, the Great Commandment (Matthew 22:37-40) is the surest solution to people pleasing. Since the fear of man is really an issue of loving ourselves, we overcome it by placing our affection on God and others. I hope you will read Welch’s book!
Dr. Patrick Latham