For the past nine months I’ve been in a discipleship group trying to stop my constant obsession with being worried about what people think of me. It has been a lifetime problem I can’t seem to stop. Although I’m not fixed yet, I’ve been learning a lot about my “condition.”
First, I’ve been learning to quit resisting who I am. I cry, love and get hurt easily. I’ve always hated those things about myself, but I’m learning there are good and bad things about the way we are innately wired. Wishing I was different is pointless and pathetic.
I’m also learning I often don’t believe the Bible. I can readily accept you’re deeply loved and fearfully and wonderfully made, but if I really believed that about myself, I wouldn’t care if you didn’t like me. But I do. It isn’t bad to believe the Bible on a partial, mainly cerebral level, but it is dangerous when we don’t realize it and stay there. That kind of abstract belief leads to a stagnant, apathetic faith and life.
I’m also learning Jesus didn’t care what people thought of Him because He knew and stayed on mission. So, I’ve been working for a few months on what God’s mission for my life is and I’m discovering God’s mission looks very different from my mission. Discerning God’s mission is a slow process because I’m also realizing I need to buy into and believe at a deep, core level whatever that mission is.
Perhaps the most important thing I’m learning? It’s almost impossible to love people and obsess over trying to please them.
Last weekend I met a homeless man named CJ on Michigan Avenue in downtown Chicago. I put my hand on his shoulder, asked him his name and prayed with him. We talked about where he slept the night before (“right here, in a box”), what his options were when it got colder out and we gave him a gift card. I thanked him for his amazing joyful attitude, told him I’d pray for him and I gave him a hug.
Nine months ago, I would not have stopped and talked to CJ (see my blog, Why I Ignore the Homeless). I wouldn’t have because I would’ve been too worried. Worried what my family, onlookers and CJ would’ve thought about me. Worried about what I would say or do. Worried, predominantly and ironically, about myself.
I’m learning when I am preoccupied with pleasing people, I ignore them. When I focus on people pleasing, I’m actually focusing on myself. People pleasing is tiring, fruitless and self-centered. Although I’m not cured, God in His love is helping me see that really pleasing people is caring about the condition of their souls today and tomorrow. It’s accepting how God innately wired them without trying to change them. It’s believing more deeply and trusting more fully who God is and His mission for my life, so I can in turn love people better, whether they love or loathe me.