Monday, October 19, 2015

The Joy of Crushing "What Will People Think?"

Last week in church, the woman in front of me got out of her seat to grab someone who sitting alone and having a tough time to come sit with her. I thought that was such a thoughtful thing to do. 
This week, that same woman was sitting alone again. But the grabber was not in church. I felt the Holy Spirit nudge me.

"Go ask her to sit with you."

I resisted. Why? It was a simple gesture.

Because it would require my getting out of my pew in the third row in the middle of worship and having everyone behind me stare at me. 

"What will people think?"

How much do we dismiss because of that hideous question? Why do we care so much what everyone else will think? Especially in church! 

We put way too much importance on the approval--and imagined disapproval--of others, so much so that sometimes it interferes with what God is asking us to do. 

When we do this, we are placing peoples' opinions (most of which are not privy to) over God's desires and in a sense, making people our god. We move God to the back burner to simmer, moving false truths to the front to be our main meal.
Sadly, we miss out on the blessings God want to bestow on us by showering blessings on others through our actions.

I believe that it comes down to fear. Fear of man. Fear of not being accepted or approved of. Fear of losing face. Looking stupid. Being observed. Being judged. It might be embarrassing. And that would lead to shame. And we all have memories of shame that we'd rather not remember or relive. It's easier to stay where we are. It becomes more about us and less about God or others.

Why are we so afraid to do something nice for someone? Why can a random act of kindness stir up anxiety? What makes us hesitate to do something simple for someone else?

Fear of rejection. What if they say no? What if they don't accept it? What if it embarrasses me in the process? Or what if they make too much of it?

If we're thinking like that, we're not thinking of the other person. Rather, we are thinking of ourselves, thereby defeating the whole purpose of that act of kindness. 

An act of kindness shouldn't be about us. It should be about the other person

As I sat there in the pew, the Holy Spirit would not let me go. My heart pounded. I wanted to move, but that question burned.

"What will people think?"

All the while, I realized how stupid and absurd this was. I was overthinking this and making it bigger than it should be. It wasn't like He was asking me to run to the altar and throw myself down in an act of repentance, disrupting the whole service. He was asking me to cross the aisle and offer compassion.

The pastor was praying. Something about sacrifice. And then The Holy Spirit said to me,

"Do you think you could sacrifice your self-preservation for a moment and do this for me and for her?" 

It was a humbling question and I think, perhaps, just a little sarcastic. Sometimes God has to hit me upside the head in a way I'll understand and since sarcasm is something that I relate to, well...sometimes He gives me a sarcastic brain slap.

I got out of my seat and asked her if she'd like to sit with us. Her face lit up and said, "Oh, yes. Thank you."

Did I care what anyone else thought? No. 

Besides, I highly doubt anyone really noticed or cared about what I was doing. We are not as important as we like to think we are.

Back in the nineties, during my "recovery years," a couple of my dear friends and I listened to this song over and over---I thought I'd conquered that "What will people think?" thing back then...but every now and then it rears its ugly head. I had to have a good listen to this song again. If you struggle with that question, then you just might need to hear this song by Dennis Jernigan, appropriately called, What Will People Think?

When we focus on Jesus, allowing Him to come to a full boil on the front burner of our lives, those acts of kindness become a natural part of who we are. Our self-preservation is no longer the most important thing in our lives. I want to get to the point that Dennis sings about:

Well, I no longer care.
Let the whole world see that I love You
Let them see in me what Love can do
Take my life and show a love worth dying for.

I'm not there yet, but that's it's where I aspire to be. And the only way I'll get there is to stop asking, 

"What will people think?"

Blessings Along the Path,

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  1. Oh Mare, yes. Can I tell you a secret? Sometimes I am compelled in church to raise my arms in praise, and I hesitate. And usually, I cave in to my feelings, and I keep them at my side. It's not that other people don't raise their hands. Some do. It's just that I am so self-conscious thinking about what people might think if I do it. How dumb...

    I'm remembering King David, and how he danced unashamedly, and maybe just a bit crazily, as he celebrated the return of the Ark. This verse:

    "And David danced before the LORD with all his might." (2 Samuel 6:14, ESV)

    With all his might. Doesn't sound much like he was thinking about ANYONE else besides his Lord. I could learn a good lesson from that...


    1. oh, yes, Sharon---that is indeed a marvelous verse to remember. I want to be like David. Thing is, we know what people think about "religious fanatics" and maybe we're afraid of being labeled one. Hmmmm...thanks for sharing your secret...I get it. When I was leading worship or on the worship team or something, I once said to someone in church, "I love focusing on you during worship because I can tell that you're really worshiping with your hands lifted and eyes closed. That makes me feel like I'm doing my job." or something like that. A man standing next to this person said, "Well, I worship with all my heart, and don't raise my hands, but I'm raising them inside." Boy did I feel dumb.

  2. Beautiful reminder of a very important truth: we must live to serve God and not man! Blessings to you...

    1. Thank you Sarah. Thanks for taking the time to stop by and read.

  3. Love your challenge to us today, Mary! I also love how authentic and humble you are in all of your posts. That's something I want to emulate from you and your beautiful example, my friend! And yes, I think God has to give me one of those sarcastic brain slaps to get my attention every once in a while too. Sarcasm is my native language, you know--much to my husband's dismay! Thanks for always inspiring while you give us a good dose of laughter as well, my friend!

    1. Thanks, Beth! Such encouragement from a fellow encourager. I'm also very trusting and...okay gullible...and I take everything at face value. If you tell me something, I believe you. So the irony here is that I don't always recognize sarcasm in other people! Which is really funny because it's like, "Haha! The joke's on you!"