The Opinions of Others

The one way I know I tend to make my life more difficult for myself is in trying to live up to external human expectations. 

I can make peace with falling short of my own expectations for myself, but when I happen to fail other’s, I end up feeling like a complete failure. 

I’m starting to wise up in this regard. I’m beginning to distance myself from what others would demand or expect of me, and question the reasonableness of their opinions and/or accusations. And, you know what? More often than not, I recognize an underlying desire to control another human being at the root of these expectations. 

So, basically… I’ve spent years beating myself up as a failure over what (subconsciously) is my expressed refusal to be controlled by other people. 

That’s some freeing stuff right there. 

It has been in my daily walk with Christ that I’ve realized how much of my human struggle stems from the wrong relationship to other people. 

I can choose to unquestionably adhere to external demands (explicit or implicit). Or, I can choose to seek God’s wisdom in understanding what He demands from me, and separate what I’m actually responsible for from what others would have me take on. 

I get to choose.

Now that my eyes are open to the destructive nature of following mere human demands, I’m calling almost everything I do into question. I’m constantly asking myself, Am I doing this for the right reasons? Or am I doing this out of compulsion? Should I even be doing this at all? What does God expect of me here?

The crux of the issue is that God insists upon responding to external expectations– where something is asked or required of us– in the spirit of love, not out of compulsion:

“Each of you must give as you have made up your mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”

2 Corinthians 9:7 (NRSV)

If I do not take the time to examine what I feel comfortable giving of myself and give with intention…If I feel reluctant to give of myself, and do not question why that is… I am no longer pleasing my Lord.

This applies to any and every situation where we are asked or expected to give of our material and non-material resources.

If we give out of compulsion, how do we know it is according to God’s will?

If we are reluctant to give, and we fail to reflect as to why, we could very well be allowing ourselves to be manipulated by the opinions of those around us. 

God would have us be at peace in our giving. Whether it is in response to demands or expectations, we need to make up our own minds about what we can give. 

I only fail when I neglect to make up my own mind about such things. When I am satisfied with measuring up to the status quo, and give in accordingly, I may please the people around me,  but I’m failing to please God.

Who do I serve?

I want to serve God. But I suspect, I have a pattern of behavior that reveals I serve humans instead. If I want to be true to my desire to serve God completely, I first need to remove the yoke that is concern over pleasing people. 

May God help me regain the freedom He would have for me. Amen. 


5 thoughts on “The Opinions of Others

    1. Great question. I am not talking about the public sphere– the authority of law. But I can’t, off the top of my head, think of any private relationship where one does not have to first agree to work under the authority of another (as in employment, higher education, or civic groups). In this regard, there may be consequences for not meeting expectations, however, said expectations are normally stated quite clearly beforehand. These outside expectations are the stated duties belonging to a chosen position or role, and in choosing to fill an office or position, one is taking on those expectations as belonging to themselves. It’s a choice then, not a demand. Compliance results in securing one’s chosen role– non-compliance can come at the cost of said role. So, one is still exercising one’s freedom of choice. If that makes sense?


      1. Perhaps this is related, perhaps not…

        There are, of course, as you say, situations where we allow others to have power over us and our perception of both our circumstances and ourselves.

        But at the same time, I think God sends us some of those relationships to humble us. As David did, we should always, even in situations where the other party is clearly in the wrong, ask God what He wants us to see.


      2. No, I’m not talking about the human plight being one of perceived martyrdom or believing one is always the man down…Im talking about the dynamics of power and control that can infiltrate every human relationship, whenever one person is intent on exerting their power over another whether passively or actively (it’s the passive expression which we so often miss). Human relationships are fallen too, and dysfunctional by default. This is not a hopeless perspective, but the only one bringing hope to the table. Because humility in our relationship with God automatically translates into humility in human relationship. I do not believe we can find functional, healthy relationships apart from regularly standing humbled and vulnerable before God. When the vulnerability from humility becomes natural to human beings, there is no longer a need to control others. No need to set one will against another. Does that make sense? It’s a pretty hefty concept, and I fear I’m not doing it justice here.

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