But in real life, I’ve discovered that the fear of man is a strong centrifugal force that attempts to spin me into the worldly system in which image and reputation rule with an iron fist. And it’s not so fun or hilarious to be under its control. Do any of you remember those days in high school when what you wore, who you sat with in the cafeteria, and what clubs you were involved with were critical to acceptance? I recall the “risk” of carrying my Bible to chapel in a Christian school! I was one of few who dared to run the gauntlet of haughty sophisticated seniors who adored laughing at such “spiritual” behavior. And how about the pressure to have our home size and furnishings match up to the standards of others in our church or home group? That insidious force threatens to usurp the primary focus of pleasing God in my lifestyle and behavior.
And missionaries are not exempt from the centrifugal force of trying to please leaders, peers, and those we serve. If you disagree, just think about the negative impact one person’s criticism can have on your confidence in pursuing your convictions or a particular strategy. That criticism can creep in to steal time, focus, energy, and passion. Without careful attention, I can unwittingly allow that one person to become the master of my decision making! And God sadly waits for me to turn my passion and focus to him again.
It’s quite amazing that a simple look or word from a stranger has the potential of inflaming the fear of man in my heart! While shopping, I’ve had women look me up and down with a glance and I’ve known in that instant that my attire definitely fell short of “acceptable.” However, it is easier to shrug off those looks than when such looks or words come from someone I know and whose opinion I value. I am also much more prone to the fear of man when my relationship with an individual is on shaky footings from previous tensions or encounters. Not everyone succumbs so quickly to the fear of man, but the truth is, we all are prone to the centrifugal force of the fear of man.
So what can I do to avoid the pull of that force so I can soar with the Father’s approval as my central focus and motivation? My simple answer is “Don’t get on the ride!” I mean, avoid getting sucked into the centrifugal pull of the fear of man beginning with the very first thought that tries to drag me into its grip! My husband so much hates dizzy rides that if he even sees a sign pointing that direction, he will steer us in the other direction. It would help me to be just as intentional in avoiding the first glimpse of the fear of man. I do that by not allowing my thoughts or others’ comments to drag me near the fear of man ride. Even as I become aware of the destructive nature of the fear of man I need to closely examine my relationships. Fear should not be the dominating emotion in any relationship and where it has dominated, I need to wrench myself from its grip and be on the offensive with love, blessings, and prayer. After all, “perfect love casts out fear.”
And lastly, I can focus on strengthening my love relationship with God so that pleasing him once again dominates and directs my world. Choosing thought paths towards God’s pleasure will keep me safely out of the centrifugal fear of man. Delighting in his Word will help me center on what God values and keep me soaring above the entrapments of image and reputation.
(Permission was granted to overstate my husband’s dizziness!)