“The fear of man brings a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD shall be safe.”
I have become convinced that the fear of man is one of the deepest roots of my social anxiety. I think that to some extent everyone struggles with a fear of man. It’s just a natural part of being human. However, for people who battle social anxiety, the fear of man can be especially intense. People with social anxiety have a heightened awareness of how people perceive them. They are especially sensitive to how their presentation is affecting others and spend a lot of time analyzing what people think about them.
In the past couple of years, God has showed me that the fear of man truly is a snare in my life.
The fear of man keeps me silent when God calls me to speak up.
It causes me to hide my unique gifts and abilities rather than offering them to the world.
The fear of man keeps me from acting until I have everything perfectly planned out.
It causes me to hide my weaknesses rather than practicing authenticity and vulnerability with the people in my life.
If the fear of man is such a snare, how do we stop caring so much about what people think?
One of my favorite children’s books beautifully illustrates the solution.
In the book You are Special by Max Lucado, a town of wooden people called Wemmicks judge their friends by placing star and dot stickers on one another. Stars are given to the Wemmicks who are beautiful, successful, and talented while dots are given to the ugly, awkward, or untalented Wemmicks. In this story, a young Wemmick named Punchinello receives only dots. One day he meets Lucia, a Wemmick who has no dots or stars because they have simply stopped sticking to her. When Punchinello asks Lucia for her secret, she encourages him to go to the woodcarver’s shop and talk to Eli their maker. Punchinello goes to see Eli and is reminded that Eli loves him simply because he made him and that Eli’s opinion is all that matters.
You can watch a YouTube reading of the story here:
I can’t tell you how much this simple children’s story has impacted my life. I can so relate to Punchinello. Living in an externals-focused society, it’s amazing how many stars and dots I accumulate throughout the day.
I get a “like” on social media…there’s a star. I receive a word of criticism from my boss…there’s a dot. Someone compliments my haircut…there’s another star. I feel excluded from a conversation…yet another dot. Someone praises my performance at work…another star. Gossip spreads about something embarrassing in my life…another dot.
Like Punchinello, I’m learning that the only way to truly stop caring about what people think is to spend intentional time in God’s presence. In the quiet place I remember who I am and who God is.
During these times I’ll ask the Lord some simple questions and then listen for his answers. Some questions to ask the Lord are:
What do you say about me?
How do you see me?
What do you want me to do today?
How can I please you today?
The more I spend time in Jesus’ presence, the more that His opinion of me becomes what truly matters.
And the opinions of man start to fade away.