The angel who wrestled with Jacob from dusk to dawn wanted to know Jacob’s name. Once he told him his name was ‘Jacob’ he was blessed. Jacob meant ‘deceiver’ and was a name that characterised Jacob’s life long struggle with deceiving others.
If an angel ever asked me for my name, I would have to reply ‘people pleaser.’ For as long as I can remember, the need to please people has held a vice like grip on my life. However, since studying the scriptures on this problem there has since been some relief. Surprisingly, the Bible has much to say on this matter, here is a summary of some of my findings.
Biblical informed view of God
To overcome the fear of man one needs to first have a biblically informed view of God (1 John 4:18).
The bumper sticker is correct when it says ‘Fear God, Fear no one.’ As it’s only when we see God for who he truly is, that we will not fear man, but instead fear God. Thus, God’s identity is the ultimate antidote to the fear of man. Seeing God for who he is will give us an acute sense of creature-hood, which will inevitably result in a deep sense of humility. In this humbled state, God becomes bigger than people. Consequently, we will be no longer be controlled by what others think, feel, and act – because God in the picture is the ultimate reality.
Biblical informed view of ourselves
The second way to overcome the fear of man is to see ourselves for who we are in Christ.
To truly grasp how God views us now that we are saved, will surely lessen the burden of what other people think. In the first chapter in the book of Ephesians it describes our position on Christ. In verse six it says: ‘we are accepted in the beloved’. Thus the basis of our acceptance should not reside in other peoples’ opinions or even how we perceive ourselves, but instead, should reside in who we are in Christ. This way we don’t need to measure up other people, as it’s only God’s opinion that counts. So, when we find our true identity in Christ, the less others will be able to influence how we view ourselves.
This is the problem with seeing self-esteem as the key solution to this problem, as others can have the ability to control how you feel about yourself. We all know people can like you one day and can despise you the next. Far better to have our identity grounded in Christ who is the same yesterday, today and forever.
Biblically informed view of others
The Bible says we are to put other people above ourselves (Philippians 2:3). A large part of the problem with the fear a man is an excessive preoccupation with oneself. Hence, part of the solution is to look for opportunities to serve others.
We need to be less consumed about ourselves and more caring about others. Although loving others may make us feel a little more uncomfortable about ourselves, it is a sure step to being less controlled by them. So when we learn to live a life out of loving concern for others, rather than just pleasing others, we will be on our way to liberating ourselves from this deadly sin.
The fear of man will only ensnare us, but if we put our trust in the Lord, we will be safe (Proverbs 29:25). Thus by living our lives out under the gaze of God, seeing ourselves for who we are in Christ, and serving others, we can break ourselves free from the chains of fearing man.
Steven Kilner is married to Jodie and has three sons, they have a eight year-old, a six year-old and a three year-old. They attend Canterbury Gardens Community Church. Steven is studying theology at PTC and Jodie is undertaking a diploma in Nursing.