Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Free to Love #1 - What Others Think of You Is Mostly Not Important

Storm clouds over our garage

Many years ago, while praying, God told me "John, what others think of you is mostly not important. But what you think of others is very important." And: "What I [God] think of you and others is most important."

Here are three ideas:
  1. What others think of you is mostly not important.
  2. What is most important is what God thinks of you and others.
  3. What you think of others is very important.
1. It's not important what others think of you.

Mostly, this is true. When a Jesus-follower is secure in #s 1 and 2, and they love you and are not trying to control of change you, then what they think of you is important. For example, what my wife Linda thinks of me is very important. I pay attention to this. I have some others in my life like this.

My life has too much gone up and down, like a thermometer, reacting to how other people view me. The further I look into my past, the more I see myself as a moral and spiritual chameleon that changes colors depending on others' perceptions of me.

I have been too concerned about being liked and approved by others. I wore clothes that would, hopefully, win others' affirmation; I spoke words that people wanted to hear; and I made decisions that were inauthentic, not true to who I was. My 'yes' was 'no' and my 'no' was 'yes.' I was not secure in my own identity. Out of such insecurity comes the need to please others and be pleasing to them.

Part of my sanctification as a Jesus-follower has been growing out of this insecurity. (Sanctification = ongoing growth in holiness; ongoing "set-apartness" for the Kingdom.) I'm not fully secure yet. But now Linda and I often talk about how we both, as best we can, speak the truth in love to others who seek our counsel, even if they do not want to hear it, even if as a result they reject us, and even if they publicly crucify us.

Now I know that unless I am free from the insecurity of people-pleasing I will never be able to love them as I should. Only a free person can really love others. To be free is to have no emotional "strings" that others can pull, to have no "hot buttons" that others can push. We see this, fully demonstrated, on the cross, as Christ said, amazingly in an act of 100% freedom, "Father, forgive them...  for they don't know what they do."

At precisely that point we see the "true colors" of Jesus, who was not manipulated by some need to be liked by others. This allowed Him to freely love those who didn't love Him.

How can we grow in such holiness? I have found this freedom in my prayer life. Today I get to spend time praying. It's my "Tuesday with God." As I dwell with Him and hear from Him, He will tell me, as needed, that I am secure in His love. The experiential being-loved-by-God is the antidote that heals the chameleon's heart.

Next: #2 - What is most important is what God thinks of you and others.