Grappling With What Others Think of Me

By Dudley Hall Published on May 6, 2015

DUDLEY HALL — I was in the first grade at Union Elementary School. It was a consolidated school for first through sixth graders from several communities in rural Alabama. The principal came to our room and talked with our teacher, Mrs. Carter. They motioned for me to approach the desk. They wanted me to read a devotional in front of the entire school assembly on Wednesday. How hard could that be? I could read, all right.

But then Wednesday came. As I looked through the gap in the stage curtain, I could see the kids from all six grades and it seemed like the crowd had swelled to thousands. My friends were out there squirming and giggling. What would they think of me? As I walked to center stage, my ears began to pop. I felt suspended and alone. I could hardly speak beyond a whisper. The words that before were so simple now seemed complex. Stage fright? Well, yes. I was experiencing the dynamic of how our concern about the opinion of others can severely affect us.

We would like to think that we don’t care about others’ opinions, but that is denial. Those who claim such nonsense are trying to throw us off. It matters, and it should — some. But when those opinions become the deciding factor in our evaluation of our own identity, they make a cruel master. This experience seems to be getting in our present culture as more and more people seek “followers” through social media and expanded exposure from self-made profiles. But that can become dangerous. It can be deadly. It can affect our response to Jesus and his kingdom, and that has eternal consequences.

Nevertheless, many even of the authorities believed in him, but for fear of the Pharisees they did not confess it, so that they would not be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God. John 12:42-43 (ESV)

We were made for glory, but not the kind that human applause provides. We were made to glorify God and find our own glory in doing so. Every child wants to hear a parent say, “Good job.” It is a reflection of our transcendent desire to hear God say, “Well done.” We have an insatiable desire for some kind of glory, and we settle for that which people give even though we know it is temporal and conditional. Their acceptance can drive our personal spending, tastes and entertainment. We put ourselves into cruel debt for them. We wear uncomfortable clothes for them. We eat ridiculous food for them — and still we long for a “Well done” that actually satisfies.

There is only one solution. When we are impressed with a beauty so breathtaking that our fixation with self is broken, we can glory in that. Jesus is that beauty. No one who has seen him clearly will disagree. Isaiah saw his glory in the temple and lost any attachment he had to pleasing people. The Jewish scholar Saul, who became the Apostle Paul, saw him briefly on his trip to Damascus and became so fascinated with him that he lost all fear of man and human opinions.

We have a new source of glory — one that satisfies. We lost the glory that was given to our forebears, Adam and Eve, but it has been restored to us through Jesus, the head of a new race. We can now live as his image bearers on earth, fully immersed with him in worship and work. We are freed to live before an audience of One, who looked at the performance of his Son and declared, “Well done.” We are in him, so that also applies to us. Through Jesus, we succeed amazingly well. As we believe this, the doors to the prison of pleasing others open wide and we walk out onto the stage of life and live unto him.

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