It’s hard to live out our convictions in an increasingly hostile world. Every day that I am brave enough to turn on the news or read comments to news stories online, it’s inevitable that someone somewhere is angry or offended. It’s much like a game of cards where chips are used and where they fall determines how much is won or lost. The question isn’t if the chips will fall, the question is where they will fall.
This hostility and anger isn’t only seen online or in the news. Any time we choose to go against the grain of what is “the norm” we risk being counted as an outsider. In todays ever-changing atmosphere, it’s difficult to know what “the norm” is at any given point in time. It feels at times that I am walking on eggshells as I fail to keep everyone happy.
The problem that comes from working as hard as we do not to rock the boat is the incessant gnawing in our souls of not living authentically before the world (see 1 John 2:10).
Same Story, Different Angles
I’ve written about this subject many times approaching it from many different angles. Why is it that the temptation to please people holds us so tight?
We simply have to experience the pain of rejection once to learn the lesson. Living for the approval of others will ultimately drain us of our joy and energy. Instead of learning this lesson, we work harder to fit in. We want to make sure everyone knows that we are just like them. This further complicates extricating ourselves from the complicated world of peer pressure.
When I was a teenager, I thought peer pressure was something that would fade away as an adult. How wrong was I? Peer pressure (I know that’s the old fashioned term) grows from a trickling stream in our childhood into a raging river in adulthood. Unfortunately for many, fearing rejection prevents us from daring to live out loud.
The Cinderella Syndrome
I’ve learned over the years that people and their opinions of who I am and how I live can change by the moment. Jesus understood this as well :
But Jesus did not commit Himself to them, because He knew all men, and had no need that anyone should testify of man, for He knew what was in man.John 2:24,25 NKJV
We also share in the blame as we are the ones who have allowed the pressure to influence us. In our quest to please others and find happiness, we hand the key of our lives over to others thinking that will result in peace and joy. This “Cinderella syndrome” supposes that others will miraculously bring us the proverbial lost shoe. Thus making us miraculously fit in where we should.
The pressures of living authentically differ radically from living to please others. When I choose to live authentically before the world, it creates waves. It has taken time for me to allow the chips to fall where they may. The truth of the matter is that I should not be living to make anyone besides God happy. I’m not even living to please myself. Like my peers, my emotions and opinions are unreliable and can change from one moment to the next. The only unchanging opinion belongs to God. He is consistent, reliable, loving, patient and kind. He always has my best interests at heart. This puts Him in a category all by Himself.
As a misfit, see my entry Musings of a Misfit Missionary for a bit of background, I understand the pain of being misunderstood and rejected. I’ve been told that I’m selfish, short-sighted, irresponsible and “the worst parent” in the world by people who didn’t even have a clue about our work and call. Yet, these words found their way into my heart, wounding my already meager self-confidence.
It is very hard to hear those kinds of words without agreeing with those who hurled them at me. I’m thankful to have had the overwhelming grace to stay the course and continue living the truth of what God has called me to be: a misfit missionary.
Not a License to Live Ugly
Living truthfully doesn’t give me license to live ugly and confrontational towards those who don’t understand. On the contrary, it gives me license to love more, give more and serve more. Perhaps it is in living the truth in love that I will give others a greater understanding of the love of God. His interests for them far outweigh the opinions and ultimate rejection of their peers.
Imagine this: there’s Someone Who really cares, really wants the best for you and died for you to make it happen. That’s the kind of person Whose opinion has won me over. I fit in with Him and His Kingdom and that is all that matters.
Jeremiah 31:3 NASB “I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have drawn you with lovingkindness.”