Should I care what other people think of me?

One of my favorite songs at the moment is sung by the up and coming music duo Twenty One Pilots

. In their song Stressed Out,

these words ring out.

“I was told when I was older all my fears would shrink.

But now I’m insecure and care what people think.”

I so appreciate the honesty of these lyrics. I firmly believe that it is a common human experience to be fearful of others opinion of us. Which begs the question,

as Christians should we care what other people think of us?

Should a Christian care what other people think of them? No.

First and foremost, for the Christian, our identity is found how Christ sees us. We clearly see this in the New Testament.

Galatians 4:7

“So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.”

 

If you follow Christ, you are no longer controlled by who you think you are, or who others think you are, you are set free to live the way Christ sees you, as a precious son or daughter of the One True King.

When looking for the next King of Israel, God reminded the prophet Samuel that “

The Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7).

We see here a juxtaposition between God’s perspective and our own.

Mankind sees one thing, and often passes judgment based upon an outward appearance. But God is looking far deeper, into our hearts. It is what God sees upon looking into our hearts that matters far more than what our friends, co-workers, or even rivals see or think about us.

When we trust the security of our position before God, we are freed from the fear of how others see us.

In a time when there was much controversy swirling around which foods were acceptable to eat and which festivals ought to be honored, the Apostle Paul reminded the Believers at Colossae to

“Let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath.” (Colossians 2:16).

So it seems that even within the house of God there is some freedom among Believers to approach things differently, without fear of judgment.

It is important to note that this passage does not say anything about morally right or wrong choices; it is not addressing sinful decisions, but rather morally neutral decisions.

There should be freedom among God’s people to have a glass of wine with dinner without fear of judgment. There is freedom to watch a movie that is not produced by a Christian company, there is freedom to dress differently and live differently, within the boundaries God has given us in scripture.

So in many ways, as Christians we have been set free from the fear of man, to fully focus on the fear of God, whose opinion of us matters.

This reality must also come with a caution, because as with nearly all things, there is a way to fool ourselves into abusing the way we should live as Christians.

 

Should a Christian care what other people think of them? Yes.

 

We can become so hardened to the opinions of others that we walk around in too much freedom and reject all people’s thoughts of us in a way that God never intended. I think of the tattoo made famous by late rapper Tupac Shakur that reads; “Only God Can Judge Me.”

This statement is perhaps true in some ways, but many of us can be guilty of living a life that never takes into account God’s judgment, and completely rejects anyone who disagrees with something in our life. An “us against the world” mentality was never intended to be a part of the Christian life.

When giving instructions for the qualifications for church leaders, Paul writes this:

“Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.” – 1 Timothy 3:7

So if one desires to lead other Christians, it seems that what other people think of you matters greatly. This verse specifically is talking about non-Christians. It goes so far as to say that not caring what those outside Christianity think of you is a sure way to fall into a snare of the devil. Others opinions of who we are, matter.

Jesus himself affirms this idea in

Matthew 5:16, “In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”

It is expected of the Christian life to be lived in such a way that when people watch your life, they see God.

So what then is the balance? Do we care what other people think of us and fall prey to the insecurities and fears that are attached to that? Or do we reject all opinions of what people think of us; live how we want to live, and give no thought to what people think of who we are?

As so often is the answer in life, it lies in the middle.
 

To the extent that our actions affirm or undermine our Christian testimony we should care what others think of us.

 

When we are seeking to live well and consider others opinions of us, there are two simple questions to ask.

    1. Does this undermine my Christian testimony?

Often when approaching a situation, we ought to stop and think about what someone who doesn’t follow Christ but knows we do, would think of our actions. Does going somewhere, watching something, participating in an event, undermine what my life should be about? If someone were to see me live this way, would it bring him or her closer to God? Or push them further away?

If our actions make it more difficult for someone to see God in our lives then wisdom would caution us to avoid that.

  2. Does this place a stumbling block in front of a brother or sister in Christ?

1 Corinthians 8:9

“Take care that this right of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak.”

Not only should we care what non-Christians think of us in regards to our Christian life, we should be extremely careful not to cause a brother or sister to stumble.

I remember one time when a friend of mine was struggling greatly with drunkenness. He decided to reach out to a pastor for help, the pastor not knowing the extent of the situation took my friend out for a beer to talk.

Now it should not be considered sinful to have a beer…but in this situation it became a major stumbling block in the life of another Christian, and instead of not caring what people thought about his getting a beer, this pastor ought to have been more careful about what impression he was giving with his morally neutral decision.

When it comes to what other people think of us,

God has called us to live in the freedom that identity in him provides, while at the same time carefully considering how our actions and choices affect those around us.

 

Learning to care more about God’s opinion than fearing the opinion of man is a battle all Christians will face throughout their life. In our fight against this fear, let us not overcorrect and forget to care about our Christian brothers and sisters, as well as our non-Christian neighbors who are watching our lives closer than we would ever imagine.
 
-Mark Resch