Facing the Fear of What People Think

When people loudly proclaim they don’t care what other people think, they are often lying. It takes some work to not allow the pulse of what certain people think to affect you. Hear a nasty comment or receive some rude feedback and most will mull about it for some time.

Preachers can declare, “I don’t care what anyone thinks. I only care what God thinks.” I appreciate the bold statements, but quite often, they are not really being honest. In fact, the more people yell that they don’t care what people think, the opposite is often true.

Getting Honest About the Problem

In order to get healing and overcome the people pleasing and being driven by what others think, you have to get real about it. You cannot address this subject unless you get honest.

Honesty starts with admitting where we all spend a little too much time mulling over what other people think about us and our decisions.

Learning to Face the Issue

I can remember during my early pastoring days giving a message while at the very same time, being aware of those who would not approve of my preaching style or message. During the seasons where I led worship and music, there were always those who did not approve of my taste of music or ways I led worship.

When I was the head pastor of a church, some of the most intense opinions and harsh perceptions were thrown my way. It was in that season that I really had to deal with the subject of what people thought of me.

As soon as I began to use online media to communicate insights for healing and wholeness, it was shocking how intensely harsh and abrasive people were in their comments and even emails.

The Pressure on Social Media

In this age of online social interaction, every person who joins is given a microphone to speak their opinion about anything. The online comments section opens the door for every nasty critic and unloving response you can think of.

Even though social media has provided many great tools, it has also opened up a cesspool of hostile opinion sharing. Imagine at the end of a pastor’s sermon, everyone in the church walking up to the mic and giving their opinion of what they thought of the message. The problem is, most people would never say in person what they often write online.

Radar for Disapproval

Because of our brokenness, we look for people to grant us acceptance and approval. Yet even when they provide that, it can be a trap, because we keep looking for it. When a heart is insecure and broken, no amount of man-given approval can satisfy the heart.

I have also found that no matter how much people can be affirming, our minds often pay the most attention to the negative perceptions that come our way. It’s amazing how we can hear 99 wonderful comments, yet focus in on the one that was negative.

Why? We have a radar that listens to the negative.

I can remember times where God moved mightily through a message I gave, but had to spend so much mental energy dealing with someone who took me the wrong way and twisted my words.

Today’s 24/7 communication culture is making it harder to not hear what people think. Say something that offends someone and they often send emails. If they don’t send emails, they tell all their friends. They’ll post on social media or hit up the comments section of a blog. The online hostility is showing the diseased state of mind.

You Are Not Always Immune To It 

Here’s the truth. If you are heart connected at all, you will feel the pain of harsh opinions and words being thrown at you. You can try and live in a hole to avoid hearing what other people think, but you’ll die in the isolation.

So take a deep breath and know you are not alone if the opinions of others get to you. This is a battleground that every has to face.

It’s what we do with what people think that is incredibly important.

So many have not been affirmed in their identity, so they carry an extra large receptor to feel out the opinions and perceptions of those around them. If you find yourself doing this, you will fall into the vacuum pull of it every time, unless you make a decision to move into a new direction.  

Changing Direction

The problem is you cannot lead people or impact their lives effectively if you are driven by what they think as your primary motivator.

So here is the key. It’s not about the fact that you heard what someone else thinks. It’s what you do with it that matters. If you are acting in response to what people think all the time, your ability to see with faith and boldness is hijacked.

Jeremiah and His Tough Job

Whenever I face a certain battleground, I try to find someone in the Scriptures who had to wrestle with it. Jeremiah is top on the list of someone who had to wrestle with no letting what people think hinder him from following his calling and speaking what God called him to say.

There are very few people who have had a tougher job than Jeremiah. Known as the “weeping prophet,” He was called to give a message of repentance, calling the people of Israel away from sin and back to God.

Through this time of ministry which would last for decades, Jeremiah would witness the invasion of the Babylonian armies, the deportations and killing of God’s people and the destruction of the temple. He had to proclaim a tough message, watch the people not listen and witness the consequences of that disobedience.

He would later mourn and lament over Jerusalem, knowing that the people did not listen to the warnings. Yet he fulfilled his mission and calling by proclaiming that word and walking in boldness.

Jeremiah’s Preparation

God had to show Jeremiah as a young man to be confident in his identity and calling. The Lord knew this young prophet, who was probably a teenager at the time, would have to overcome tremendous fear in order to minister with authority.

God commanded Jeremiah to not see his age as a boundary to his destiny, for the Lord called him from birth to be a prophet unto the nations. In addition, the fear of rejection needed to be attacked if he was to speak the Word of God to people who would not receive it.

The key to dismantling the pull of what everyone would think was found in this command:

Be not afraid of their faces: for I am with thee to deliver thee, saith the LORD. Jeremiah 1:8

Overcoming What People Think

Jeremiah’s message to those who battle the fear of what people think would be pretty straight forward: People are not always going to like everything you say and do. If you let their opinions be your guiding force, it will shipwreck your ability to speak and live boldly.

Here’s the truth: the fear of what other people think is not something that can be broken off of you before you act. You will not get free, get 100% confident and then act. You usually have to go through seasons where you are struggling along the way, but you make a decision to move into a new direction.

The fear gets broken as you learn to make what God thinks the most important criteria and learn to not idolize what others think and say about you.

Freedom Manifests in the Journey

The fear of what people think is broken in the process of acting, speaking and going through those uncomfortable moments. This kind of fear is only broken in the fire of experience. 

  • Jeremiah had a fire shut up in his bones that overpowered the fear of what other people thought. If you live with that fire, eventually, the force of the enemy will not win over.  

At the end of the day, you need to live with the approval of your Father in heaven. He’s offering it to you right now. So the more you get filled with His love, validation and approval, what other people think can begin to drift into the distance.

Remember, what other people think about you is none of your business anyway.

Live free.

Recommended Resources: