I could blame it on the church of my youth. We Evangelicals are often big on external conformity and not-so-big on dealing with the heart.
I could blame it on personality. One of the curses of being sensitive to the thoughts and feelings of other people is that it is easy to become overly concerned about how they are responding to you.
Or, I could just face the fact that I am an idolater at heart and have made an idol out of the approval of others.
While there is some truth in the first two excuses, ultimately they are just excuses. It is possible to grow up in legalistic Evangelicalism without becoming a people pleaser. It is also possible to be sensitive to others without making their approval an idol.
Now, I’m certainly not saying that it is wrong to be sensitive to what others are thinking. Someone who takes no feedback from the people around them is by definition a sociopath. If you have ever known a sociopath, it is not pretty.
But the point is that the feedback from others has to be subjugated to a proper understanding of who God has made and called me to be. It is his voice that needs to be preeminent, not the voices of the people around me.
I find it easy to make this distinction intellectually. I find it rather difficult to put it into practice. The transition from people-pleaser to God-pleaser has not been an easy or a short one for me. In fact, comparing my progress to a drive from New York to San Francisco on I-80, I feel like I am somewhere around Stroudsburg, PA. Even now, while I am writing this blog post, I am overly concerned about what people might say about it.
The good news is that I am in a church that consistently points me to the Gospel and how the Gospel speaks into every aspect of my being, including man-pleasing. I am an idolater, but a forgiven one who has power available to him to be something better. This is the first church that I have ever attended that was successful in breaking through to me with this message.
I think that at least one other church tried to do so but I was not prepared to receive it at that time. Too many of the churches I have attended were content to give me a list of rules which did not challenge my man-pleasing but instead reinforced it. We Evangelicals are oh so good at rule keeping which dulls us to the real condition of our hearts.
So, while I value your opinion, I am learning that it must not prevent me from being what God wants me to be. I must not conform where God does not want conformity. I answer to God and God alone.
Bold words perhaps, but increasingly true in my life by the grace and power of God.