The Fear of Man: Legitimate or a Trap? :: By Lucie Kirouac

I wish I could say that I’ve never dealt with the fear of man, but that wouldn’t be true. As a matter of fact, it’s been one of my ongoing battles. I keep enjoying growth and victory. I realize that I’m a being in “process.” I’ll bet you struggle with that issue too, don’t you?

The fear of man covers a broad range of preoccupations over what people think of us. There’s nothing wrong with caring about how people perceive us, nor is it wrong to be well-thought-of.

Proverbs 22:1 says: “A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, and favour is better than silver or gold.”

Having a good reputation is actually a valuable thing to have.

We long for approval, acceptance and love from others, but if we don’t get it and go to an extreme with those needs, we then begin to feel worthless, insecure and lonely. When we “depend” on others to give us a sense of well-being, we’re headed for troubles. If we’re told that we’ve done something good, even if it’s just a smile, we feel good and proud, but if we receive criticism with a look of disapproval, we fall back into believing that we’re unloved and unworthy. We’re constantly trying to get a feeling of wholeness from “outside” of ourselves, but we’re looking in the wrong place.

We often try to protect ourselves from perceived threats coming from other people. Our past and upbringing leave behind hurts stemming from “abuses” of all kinds, and if you have failed, you feel guilty and bad. Whatever happened, wrong behaviors develop and make us vulnerable. The only way, then, to relate to others is to act out of fear and self-protection.

The fear of man is a two-sided one: It’s an over-preoccupation with what people think of us and an oversized fear of rejection. Ultimately, that fear puts people in place of God in our lives, which becomes a form of “idolatry.”

The fear of man ensnares the believer and hinders us from living in the freedom that Christ has called us to and restrains us from living for the pleasures of God rather than the fickle pleasures of “fleeting man.”

We don’t always realize that we’re trapped in that hellish fear. Peer pressure in thinking, talking, looking and believing in certain ways, as well as liking and disliking in other ways, can all ensnare us.

Another fear is of “appearing foolish.” Have you ever felt that way? My guess is that many do. It’s sad because it stops us from doing things we know we should do, or that would be good for us to do that would move us out of our comfort zone and stretch us.

One of the snares of the fear of man is that some people live their lives “boxed” in a little cage!  They won’t risk looking foolish if they stay in their boundaries. The worst part of it is that we don’t use the gifts God has given us! We miss so many opportunities out of fear. It keeps us silent when the Lord prompts us to share his word. That’s our ministry.

I’m not afraid of sharing Christ. I’ve been mocked and ridiculed all my life for His sake. But you know, it’s not me they attack, but my Saviour; so, if at that moment I feel hurt, I don’t take it personally. Satan hates his Creator and therefore us too!

Another way the fear of man manifests itself is by “impressing” people. It’s not just the timid, shy and fearful kind of person that wrestles with that issue. Many look bold, in control, and seek attention. Many crave admiration and need to be applauded, but it’s just a facade.

I’ve read many Christian books to heal from that fear. I understand it, but it keeps hindering me to an extent. The difference is that I fight with the Lord’s help a little more every day. I’m gaining ground and I feel much better!

What I found disturbing as I’ve learned about that issue is that the fear of man isn’t a fear so much as it is a life “centered” around man, motivated “by pride” and how we appear in the eyes of man. We need to impress, and the goal becomes the trap! We define our lives through the eyes of other people. Little do we realize that what matters the most is what God thinks of us.

We base our identity on our “performance” to determine how we’re doing. Excelling becomes a must out of fear of failure, of not impressing. What a trap that is – a terrible cage! People mask their “insecure” heart with “bravado.”

Another form of fear of man is being a “people pleaser.” We hate to let people down, to say no, and we can’t stand the idea of not being liked! Approval is at the center of that fear. We tailor what we say to whom we’re with. Pleasing people becomes more important than being truthful with them and faithful to God.

Paul says in Galatians 1:10: “Am I now seeking the approval of man or of God? Or Am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.”

Paul isn’t saying we shouldn’t ever try to please people or that it’s always wrong to want people to approve of us. Our main goal is to please God in our service to him. We’re totally accepted, pleasing and unconditionally loved by the Lord, so we don’t need to perform to impress Him!

Fearing man isn’t between us and other people; it’s between us and God! We view people as being “big” and God as being “small.” We need to grow in the fear of the Lord – not being afraid of Him, but having reverence and awe for Him. We trust and worship Him. All humans are “small” and God is “big.” Our acceptance in Christ is real, and we don’t need anything else.

Sharing our concerns and issues with love and respect enables us to grow and to overcome by the power of Christ abiding in us through His Holy Spirit.

Be well, victorious, and fulfilled by our Liberator—Jesus Christ himself!

Lucie who cares…