Of all the fears I’ve mentioned in this Bootcamp Courage series, this is probably the biggest fear God will deal with in the life of His children:
The fear of public opinion.
Ironically, when I began to write on this topic, I thought, “What will people think? They might misunderstand.” Then, it dropped, “Deborah, you are doing exactly what you are writing about”, and I laughed.
If you are going to achieve great or daring things, conquer new territories, or be used by God in any capacity, this is the biggest fear you will have to overcome.
The Bible says, “The fear of man brings a snare.” Proverbs 29:25.
A snare is a trap.
Other translations read:
‘The fear of human opinions disables…’(Message Translation)
‘It is dangerous to be concerned of what others think of you…’(Good News Bible)
‘The fear of man is a dangerous trap…’(The Living Bible)
What are the characteristics of a trap?
(1)A Trap Is Subtle.
It is not obvious. Usually, it is hidden. It catches you unawares. You are walking on your own – and then, suddenly, you are caught up in something you are trying to get out of.
That’s what happens when you allow the fear of man into your heart. It is so subtle, you might not recognize it as ‘fear’. You might call it ‘honour’, ‘regard’, ‘respect’, ‘consideration’, ‘love’ – but, bottom-line, you highly value the opinion of others above what God wants you to do.
This fear can be towards an individual or a group. There are people who can take on a crowd head-to-head, but the disapproval of a particular person can weaken them.
When a person’s – or group of people’s – opinion controls how you react/think/talk, you are in a trap.
It can be so subtle.
Some years ago, God brought me under the ministry and leadership of someone I deeply respected. Usually, I’m not easily moved by public opinion, neither am I one who tries to please people, but I started noticing that at a point, my focus slowly began shifting from serving God to pleasing this leader.
It was so very subtle – but because I deliberately always try to make God first place in my life, I quickly and easily discerned it.
So, one day, I locked up myself in my room and told God to realign my focus. I told Him I didn’t want to ‘see’ this leader, or ‘care’ about his opinion anymore – all I wanted to see was God. I knew that if my focus was on God, the appropriate honour and respect for the leader would be there – without making him an idol.
I left my room with my heart-focus locked back into God. I was able to focus on God – and, therefore, serve the leader and ministry better.
You see, ‘Seek ye first…’ (Matthew 6:33) is very true. When we put God first in all things, even the approval of men will later be added to you.
But when you put man first, you lose out on all sides:
You definitely displease God.
You lose your sense of identity.
You lose your sense of purpose and inner compass.
In the long run, you lose the approval of the people you are trying hard to please.
(2)A Trap Immobilizes/Limits You.
When you are caught in the WWPS trap, you cannot move in the direction God is leading you because of what men think. You remain stuck in the same spot because of this syndrome. You don’t grow. You don’t flourish in your purpose. You don’t expand because…What Will People Say?
A trap keeps you bound and limits you.
(3)A Trap Leaves You At The Mercy Of The Trapper.
If the trapper wants you kill you, he does. If he wants to put you in a cage and play with you now and again, he does. Human/public opinion works the same way. It can be fickle and subject to change. Ask Jesus.
When men want to praise you, they do so to the heavens, shouting and singing, “Hosanna in the highest!” When you stop giving them want they want, they scream, “Crucify Him!”
It would be unwise to put yourself in that position.
Like Jesus, make sure you dance to the beat of only one drum: The Master’s.
(4)A Trap Kills You.
The WWPS trap kills you and everything related to you. Slowly, the life-blood – of your identity, your purpose, your calling, your divinely-ordained relationships – drains out. The death might be sudden or dragged out, but in the end, you die to your dreams and visions because of the opinions of man.
It’s not worth it.
If you think you might be caught up in this trap, simply tell God to set you free, re-align your focus – and fix your gaze back solely on Him.
He is more than willing.