You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you. Isaiah 26:3 (NIV)

I am going through a short study with my friend on the topic of transforming attitudes of the heart. When she and I last met, we talked about fear of man. Fear of man is evident when a person makes the opinions and approval of others more important than just about anything else. Those who struggle with this common heart issue are fearful of not being well thought of. Ultimately, they live for the approval of people.

Examples of Fear of Man

Fear of man is not always easy to detect because those who struggle with it often have the best attitudes about everything! They can be the go-to people who are everywhere doing everything in your churches. Their lives can be full of activity, and so they are not looked upon as being depressed. They are considered to be self-sacrificing and service-oriented because they rarely say no to anything. They typically put forth their best efforts and seem determined not to let anyone down.

Some people who struggle with fear of man issues appear to be happy and content, especially while they are serving others. The reality is, many people pleasers are internally tormented and are prisoners of the good opinions of those people they serve. Ed Welch, in his fantastic book, When People Are Big and God is Small, says this about fear of man: “It includes being afraid of someone, but it extends to holding someone in awe, being controlled or mastered by people, worshiping other people, putting your trust in people, or needing people.[1] People become “our idol of choice.”

Those with fear of man issues describe themselves as being shy, having love or approval needs, People-pleasers, having an empty love tank/cup, or may have picked up the term co-dependent somewhere along the way. They truly do not understand that this way of living is grossly sinful before God.

When people are big, their opinions are so very important to us. We have to “fit in,” and we believe that we have to belong. I struggled with this whole area so much as I was growing up! I desperately wanted to fit in with those I perceived to be the popular kids. I literally agonized before my clothes closet each morning trying to predict what the girls would be wearing to school that day. Would it be pants or skirts? And when I would get it wrong I was crushed, and my day would be ruined. This constant approval seeking led me to do things that I had been raised to know were wrong.

Yearning for Affirmation

Most of my adult life, I lived with a yearning to be affirmed and fit in with my unsaved family members. I wanted their approval of my lifestyle and beliefs, which I never received. I was always seeking the positive strokes that the approval of others would bring me. The fear of rejection was so great, I adapted to whomever and whatever would bring me the praise of my peers. Peer pressure is another term for fear of man.

If you recognize yourself as this kind of idolater, rejoice! There is hope for you in Christ to change from one who has an overly high view of man to someone who has a high view of God. Having a proper view of God comes from seeing Him the way the Bible describes Him to be. Even a quick study of the names of God reveals His nature and His character, and all speak of His goodness, righteousness, justice, holiness, power, and love.

When we elevate the opinions of people over the Person of God we are headed for disastrous waters. Our focus is to be on the worship of God and living to reveal Him to others that they might also be drawn to Him through our lives and witness.

Developing a Reverence and Awe of God

Having a fear of God, meaning reverence and awe of Him, becomes our life’s passion. Developing a reverence for God over a fear of man requires a commitment to God that goes beyond the superficial. It becomes more important to do what is honorable in God’s eyes regardless of how others think of us or our decisions and opinions. In our day and age, this may mean taking a stand against a politically correct position or admitting you actually read and believe the teachings of the Bible. Having a high view of God puts what the Bible says above the opinion of man.

When you understand that you are a child of light, you desire to begin to walk worthy of this calling you have received from God, to be a light in a dark world. You are all sons of the light and sons of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness (1 Thessalonians 5:5 NIV). Rest, dear friends! When you understand that you are a partaker of Christ and that you share in His life, your life has meaning – regardless of the opinions of others!

For we have become partakers of Christ if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end…
Hebrews 3:14 (NKJV)


[1] Copyright 1997, Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, PO Box 817, Phillipsburg, NJ, Pg. 14