"Only people-lovers are able to confront."

"[The apostle] Paul was not a people-pleaser. He was a people-lover, and because of that he did not change his message according to what others might think. Only people-lovers are able to confront. Only people-lovers are not controlled by other people." ~ Edward Welch (When People Are Big and God is Small)

I took the above quote from Chapter 3: People Will Reject Me.
The chapter opens with these words...

Closely related to the fear that people will expose us (shame-fear) is perhaps the most common reason we are controlled by other people: they can reject, ridicule, or despise us (rejection-fear).... They ignore us. They don't like us. They aren't pleased with us. They withhold the acceptance, love, or significance we want from them. As a result, we feel worthless.

I love this book for many reasons. First and foremost, I love the way Welch points me to the fear of God as the path away from the fear of man rather than trying to solve this common human problem by boosting my personal self-esteem.

For the majority of my life, I have been obsessed with gaining the love and acceptance I think I need from other people. In doing this, I now realize I have made idols of people's opinions of me.

I wish I could say that this knowledge has cured me of my desire to be loved and affirmed. It has not. But I have made progress. Although I still want to be loved and accepted by other people, it is no longer a desperate, driving need. I no longer feel a worthless ache inside when people reject or disapprove of me. And this is major progress for someone who has struggled with the fear of man (other people) and the fear of rejection my entire life.

The reason I started this post with the quote about being a people-lover and not a people-pleaser is that this concept has been such a major key in unlocking my heart from this bondage. We are controlled by what and who we fear. I remember when my Christian counselor explained to me that if I feared not being thought of as a good person by everyone, I would at some point compromise what was right in order to be considered a good person by all. And that would be wrong. Jesus was not considered a good person by everyone.

I have also learned that "fearing" and "needing" people will keep me from loving them unselfishly; I won't tell them the truth because I need them too much and can't risk losing them. I will avoid what is uncomfortable if I think their discomfort with me might lead to my rejection. In other words, I am loving out of my own need rather than loving unselfishly, the way Jesus loves.

"Only people-lovers are able to confront."

A lot of people believe that avoiding confrontation is loving. But by that definition, Jesus would not be loving.

I have learned to value more and more the friend who will tell me the truth ~ even when it causes me pain. I value the person who will confront me in love rather than ignore and avoid me. I value the person who will invest the time and emotion in digging through a pile of misunderstanding in order to heal wounds rather than denying them. I value someone who will open their heart in vulnerability, let go of pride, and help me understand their wounds so that I can repent specifically and not ambiguously.

If I had only been able to understand thirty years ago the things I understand today, I could have avoided a lot of mistakes. But the mistakes are partly how I've learned. It's not about being perfect; it's about mending what's been broken through genuine repentance and forgiveness. I shared this quote on Facebook earlier in the week and I think I will share it here as well.

"In any human relationship, you will never be able to say things perfectly enough to avoid making a mess. But where there is love and mutual respect, you just clean up the mess." ~ Floyd Dawson

Confronting IS loving. Confronting is the first step in cleaning up the mess.

I'm not writing this to anyone in particular (in case you're wondering). This post is not intended to illicit any certain response from any certain individual. These are just things that are on my heart and mind. I constantly try to examine my heart for wrong motives and errors I've made that I need to correct. I have been thinking and reflecting lately upon how my words and choices have affected others in ways I may not have ever understood. But I've also contemplated the reasons why so many of us avoid the confrontation that could bring reconciliation and healing. I think it is the fear of people. We might tell them the truth and they might not care. They might ridicule us or even reject us for our honesty. So we push it down and the walls of self-protection go higher.

I am determined to conquer the fear of man (which is paralyzing) with the fear of God alone (which is liberating and empowering).


Anonymous said…
This post is amazing... thank you for addressing this. As a former people pleaser I completely identify and agree! Hugs!
Shari said…
Thanks for letting me know you can relate, Hillary. Hugs back!

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