Too much or not enough for other people, that’s what we are, or at least that’s what the little inside voice tells us.
“Tone it down, they think you’re too much,” and later I hear, “Get it together, they think you’re not enough.”
And out of self-protection, we fight that inner-conversation with “No, it doesn’t matter what other people think of me!” That’s partly true, but we’ve made a virtue of not caring about other peoples opinions when the truth is that it does matter what people think and say to us. It’s both-and. It doesn’t matter and it does.
My true identity is not based on another person’s opinion of me. I am who I am — beloved of God, free, secure, and redeemed in Jesus Christ — despite a person’s judgment of me. In that sense, it doesn’t matter what they think of me and it shouldn’t matter. My deep identity, peace, and joy should never be shaken by someone’s opinion of me.
But precisely because my identity is sure, I am free to allow myself to let people speak into my life. If I’m sure of my identity, I can simultaneously heed what other people say to me but not be wholly dependent on their opinions. My secure identity frees me up to calmly and gratefully listen to a dear friend who tells me that I’m in the wrong.
If my identity is secure, the opinions of other people will never wreck me, and their words will be valuable to me.
In fact, I need people whose words do matter to me, I need people who can speak into my life, and I need people to have some kind of authority over me. It matters that I listen to the people I trust. It matters that I show all of myself to a few chosen, close, trusted friends or family, and trust them with some authority in my life.
(Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash)
I have to stop being an authority-hog in my own life. So often I live as the queen of my own life — a kingdom in which I make the rules and what I want matters most. We create our own guidelines, based on nothing other than what we want or feel at the moment. No wonder we have fights and abuse and wars.
I need to be changed – deeply, from my guts to my skin, and I need God to do it in me. I need something outside of myself, something objective that I return to and listen to even if, at times, it contradicts my desires and flighty feelings. Otherwise I’m just living as the self-enthroned queen of my own life where I make the rules and standards of right and wrong and change them whenever I want.
I don’t want to be the queen of my own life. I don’t want to because I want to be selfless, I want to love people, and I don’t want to steal glory from my Jesus Christ.
If I don’t want to be queen of my own life, I need other people. Other people will never define me, but I do desperately need them.
I need trustworthy people in my life who are brave enough to speak to me when I’m straying, who remind me of my true identity, who know how to encourage me, and who love me enough to speak truth to me even if it’s hard. I will give them the right to confront me when I err, to cheer me on, to hold me accountable, and to ask me the hard questions.
And only because I rest in my unshakable identity, the things people say are no longer earthquakes that wreck the foundation of my soul. Instead, the words I hear from people will either be life-saving and life-changing or simple opinions that don’t even ruffle my feathers.
When I don’t care what people think, I lose my capacity for connection.
When I don’t care what people think, I miss out on valuable wisdom.
When I am defined by what people think, I lose my willingness to be vulnerable.
When I am defined by what people think, I will never know who I am in Christ.
“If we dismiss all the criticism, we lose out on important feedback, but if we subject ourselves to the hatefulness, our spirits get crushed. It’s a tight rope, shame-resilience is the balance bar, and the safety net below is the one or two people in our lives who can help us reality check the criticism and cynicism.” Brene brown