If you read the four Gospels you quickly discover that Jesus is the King of absolutely not caring about what other people think of Him. Of course, He pours love onto the people He wants to save and help, but to those who try to trip Him up or criticize Him, He is an absolute savage. Not in a mean way though, but in a straightforward, “this savagery is good for that person” type of way.
Take for instance in Matthew 12, when the enemies of Jesus began criticizing Him for not keeping the Sabbath Day holy. He did not excuse Himself and beg for their forgiveness. He did not stop healing people on Saturdays (the Jewish Sabbath day) in order to make them happy, but instead, he taught them using a genius parable about saving one’s sheep on a sabbath day and then healed a guy right in front of them.
This is the textbook definition of not caring about what other people think of you and doing what you think is best. Jesus heard their opinion of the matter of the Sabbath, saw their mistake in the issue, and simply did what He knew was best. He tried to teach them the truth in the process but doesn’t seem too concerned when they continue to bother him with accusations that He is not abiding by their erroneous perception of how one should celebrate the Sabbath day.
We too can find ourselves at conflict with the opinions of what others think we should and should not do. Of course, if we discover that we are on the wrong side of an issue we should adjust ourselves accordingly. However, if we are in line with what is good, true, and beautiful and we are doing what is best for others and ourselves, then we should not change in order to please someone else. We must take to heart the words of St. Paul in Galatians 1:10 when he says, “Am I now seeking human approval or God’s approval? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still pleasing people, I would not be a servant of Christ.”
If we put others’ approval of us over what God thinks of us, we may find ourselves serving other masters instead of God. Right away, this is a recipe for unhappiness. Plus, it might drive us to insanity as we constantly find ourselves worrying over and over again about matching our lives to the ever-changing popular opinion.
So how then can we extinguish the flames of constantly worrying about what others think of us? I have come up with five steps to lead us to a more solid, secure way of living where we are able to live and act in the freedom of God’s love, still caring about the well-being of others, and still taking the good advice of others when its suitable. These steps will help you to establish roots in the reality of who you are, discover what you should do, and then find what God wants for you in this life.
The fruit of all these steps? Straight up, invincibility. Even if the whole world points at you and laughs, calls you a loser, and rejects you, you will be able to continue on in knowing that God is for you. This lesson will lead you firmly in this truth and definitively know, once you figure out what to do and which way to go, if God is for you and, nothing can stand against you.
- Stop basing your self-worth on what you do. Unfortunately, we live in a performative society. One that looks far too much at what we accomplish to determine our worth. The reality is that we have tremendous worth simply by existing. We need not provide anything for the benefit of others in order to be worthy of love, affirmation, and acceptance. The temptation to base our self-worth on our performance is strong and can wreck us as we try to be perfect all the time and rise to the impossible standards of others and society. Be at rest in the fact that you are good already because you were made good.
- . Find your identity in the fact that you are a child of God. God made you in His image, the image of royalty, just like every other human, however, you are unlike every other human because you have never existed and never will exist ever again in human history. You are unrepeatable, unreplaceable, and worthy of respect and love. No one will ever be able to think with your mind, no one will ever be able to speak with your voice, or love with your heart except for you. Ever. God made you like this and gave you this dignity. You are His child and He infinitely loves you unconditionally. Learn to rest in these truths. You are not who you are based on your grades, your job, what sport you play, or even your talents. You are who you are based on God and His love for you. Nothing will change this and when we begin each day with our identity as being a child of God in mind freedom happens.
- Partner with the Holy Spirit. The next difficulty then is struggling to know what you should do in the day to day affairs of your life. If you are not looking for the affirmations of others to guide you in your life, where then can you get your guidance? By partnering with the Holy Spirit, you will receive the proper direction for your life. The Holy Spirit will teach you who you are and where you are suppose to go. The trick is in building a relationship with God in order to be taught by Him. Through this relationship, you will receive all the affirmation and direction you could ever hope for
- Gratitude. The ever present virtue that we need to lead us to appreciate our lives regardless of what takes place in them. When we start from a place of gratitude, of being thankful, we are able to see that even when we are disapproved of, we still have what we need and can continue on. Strive to be grateful in each moment and discover the value of what you have going for you. This will lessen the weight of the thoughts of others concerning you.
- Seek out your purpose. Knowing your purpose truly will make you invincible. It is the road you take through life that your heart won’t let you stray from. It brings you your daily wages of fulfillment and direction. It brings fulfillment in that we discover the meaning of our lives and it gives us direction in that we have a good idea of where we are going each day, month, year, etc. Knowing your purpose gives you a mission and being secure in this allows you to care less about what others think about what you are doing. This is because you know that what you are doing is what you are meant to do!
Put these steps into practice. By doing so, you will establish yourself in the truth that you belong to God and are precious in His eyes, build a relationship with Him which will bear tremendous fruit, discover your true worth, and find the path that God has set aside for you. All of this will bring about the tremendous peace we all long for, not peace from exterior struggles, but inner peace that helps us thrive even through those struggles. A peace so powerful, not even the opinions of others can steal it away from us.