"Where People-Pleasing Ends"
Updated: Sep 28, 2021
This time around last year, I logged onto this very blog and sat at this very keyboard I'm sitting at today and wrote about one of my biggest fears:
I described the many times my fear has tempted me to quit and went into detail about the kinds of people I may or may not find trolling in the comment section. I even spoke about the way people affected my confidence in who God was and what He was calling me to.
And, while that post is well over a year old, I thought it'd be appropriate to revisit that conversation.
That's right. In today's post, we're talking about...
Even further, I'm writing this post for those of you who count people as one of your biggest fears. Unlike what I believed before, this fear is not something that should be tolerated. It's not something you should settle for coping or putting up with because "fear isn't the worst thing to have, right?" Well, I'm here to tell you today that the fear of man is that bad. It is unhealthy. It is detrimental to your purpose. It must not be merely put up with. It must be demolished and dealt with for good. And, with my arm linked in yours, I'm writing this post today to help us do exactly that:
Deal with it.
By the time we get to the end of this post, I want us all to be a little more convicted about the fear we've adopted into our lives. I don't want us to put up with it. I don't want us to go on another day with that kind of a stronghold. I instead want us to have the same mindset King David had in Psalms 27:1:
The Lord is my light and my
so why should I be afraid?
The Lord is my fortress, protecting
me from danger,
so why should I tremble?
Because the Lord was David's light. The Lord was David's salvation. So, therefore, mere people couldn't touch him. David had one God and one God only, and this God just so happens to be the one true, living God that no man can kill or overcome or conquer. So, of course, David had confidence that was out of this world because he knew exactly who God was. But, today? I want to talk about a man who was, quite frankly, the opposite.
This man is someone who I count as one of the most insecure men in the Bible, the polar opposite of David's leadership style and very much King David's enemy.
If you're a church kid, there's a good chance you know exactly who I'm talking about. If you're clueless, let me take the time to introduce you to, again, one of the worst leaders the Bible has ever recorded.
I'm talking about King Saul.
Because, any time I find myself chatting about the fear of man, the way I am in this post, my mind never fails to wander to King Saul.
If you don't know much about him, sit back and relax. I'm going to try my best to write his biography. But, before I do, perhaps it's worth mentioning something a little scary, something I realized as I dove into my study of him this month. This is the part of the blog where I remind you that I am a human being, always in need of a savior and am always in need of grace. In other words, this is the part of the blog where I show you a little bit of my mess.
You want to know what I found out about myself as I studied the life of Saul?
I found myself more to be like King Saul than I was like King David.
But, it's true! I let you all know on the blog last year that the fear of man was a thing for me! I mean, ya girl fought with that thing, wrestled with it. I let the fear of man stop me from doing so much because of how intense it was. And, just when I thought I could continue to coddle it, just when I settled for coping with it versus dealing with it once and for all, God reintroduced me to King Saul and reminded me of just how ugly the fear of man was. In other words, He made it clear:
"You can't move forward until you deal with this."
Which, for someone who has dealt with fear for so long, that was very challenging for me to hear. How can I just up and leave a fear that I feel has kept me safe for so long?
I said it.
I've always felt kind of safe behind the fear of man.
Well, you might be able to relate to this, but if I kept the fear of man alive in my heart, I had less of a chance of getting rejected. If I kept letting my fear coach me on what to say and not say and what to do and not do, then I can become the robot everyone likes and not the person I really am. And, it's a lot safer to be liked by everyone than it is to be your true self and come against controversy. So, yeah. I hate to admit it, but I gravitated more towards people-pleasing than I did pleasing God. (Which is idolatry, by the way. Again, I'm not proud to admit any of this.) Because pleasing God means I have no other choice but to be me, and who He made me to be is perfect and beautiful and enough, but some of His other creation may not think so, and I might have to learn how to grow skin tough enough to stand up underneath the weight of their disapproval, and that's...uncomfortable—a lot more work than being the one everyone wants me to be and receiving their acceptance of me instead of God's acceptance.
So, yes. Unfortunately, I made the fear of man my refuge.
But, in the case that you are standing in the shoes I stood in for many years, thinking this fear is something you can merely put up with, I'm here to ruin your day and interrupt this poor way of thinking. I'm going to tell you the very thing God told me as I thumbed through the pages of 1 Samuel, studying the life of Saul. God made it very clear, and I want to make it clear to you, too:
You cannot successfully move forward if you don't deal with the fear of man.
And, studying the life of Saul provided all of the supporting evidence I needed.
We'll start in the beginning of his life for you to see for yourself how small the fear of man began for him. It's a little detail in his story that I often skipped over when I studied him in the past. Let's take a look together:
First Samuel. Ninth chapter. First and second verse.
There was a wealthy, influential man named Kish from the tribe of Benjamin. He was the son of Abiel, son of Zeror, son of Becorath, son of Aphiah, of the tribe of Benjamin. His son Saul was the most handsome man in Israel—head and shoulders taller than anyone else in the land.
Now, let's skip down to verse twenty-one, shall we? This is Saul's (the aforementioned handsome man's) response to Samuel (a prophet) after Samuel revealed to Saul that both he and Saul's entire family were the focus of all of his nation's hope:
Saul replied, "But I'm only from the tribe of Benjamin, the smallest tribe in Israel, and my family is the least important of all the families of that tribe! Why are you talking like this to me?
...Do ya see it?
Let me break it down:
The Bible says in 1 Samuel 9:1 that Saul's father was wealthy and influential and that Saul himself was the most handsome man in his entire nation.
But, Saul said in 1 Samuel 9:21 that his family was small, insignificant, and not important.
Now, do you see it?
The Bible says one thing.
Saul thought another.
The Bible recorded the truth about Saul and his family.
Saul believed a lie that he and his family amounted to nothing.
And, this is an important thing to note about Saul's thought life. His thoughts were little. His self-esteem was low. And, he couldn't even receive Samuel's good news from God because he already convinced himself that he was not worthy.
And, I'm wondering what you won't receive from God because of what you believe about yourself. I'm wondering what God has spoken specifically over you and your life that you won't step into because you've always deemed yourself as worthless. Can I warn you today, reader, as I've had to step up to this challenge as well? Perhaps this is where the fear of man starts for you—when you are too inside your head, believing every lie you've ever been told, that you can't even begin to believe the truth of what God says about you.
It seems like negative self-talk isn't all bad. It seems tolerable, manageable, seems like a tiny fact about Saul's life. But, perhaps this exclusive look inside of Saul's mind is what we need to demonstrate just how fast a low self-esteem can grow into a two-headed monster even if we only give it a just little bit of room to rule.
Because, truthfully, his insecurity is only the beginning.
Fast forward a day later when Samuel is ready to anoint Saul as king, per God's command. God gives Saul a new heart, changing him into a new person, and completely led by the Holy Spirit, Saul begins to prophesy. (Which, the Bible says in Romans that the Spirit always leads us into life and peace. This can help us visualize what Saul was feeling and experiencing in that moment—life and peace!) But, you'll find in 1 Samuel 10:10 that Saul was prophesying in the presence of his hometown. He was prophesying around people who knew him, his family, maybe watched him grow up, maybe knew something about Saul people outside of his neighborhood didn't. And, if there's one thing we know about a prophet in their hometown, as Jesus will later say in Matthew 13:57, there is no honor.
So it was with Saul.
When the people of Saul's hometown saw this man led by the Spirit, they do what people often do if they're too familiar with you:
Here come the rumors!
Read some of their thoughts in 1 Samuel 10:11-12 here:
When those who knew Saul heard about it, they exclaimed, "What? Is even Saul a prophet? How did the son of Kish become a prophet?" And one of those standing there said, "Can anyone become a prophet, no matter who his father is?" So that is the origin of the saying "Is even Saul a prophet?"
Yup. It doesn't get any clearer than that.
Can't you hear their whispers? Can't you imagine the kinds of messages they sent about Saul in the group chat?
"Saul??? PROPHESYING??? HAHAHAHAH"
"I guess God is just promoting ANYBODY nowadays!"
"Saul really think he's doing something out here prophesying with the saints, don't he?? HAHAHAH!"
Can you imagine it?!
Mind you, the Bible says, these people weren't strangers to Saul. Verse 11 says that these are people who knew Saul. So, they probably knew a little something about Saul and his family (they called out his father, too!) that made them doubt God's call on their lives. It doesn't change the fact that in chapter 9, verse 1 and 2, Kish was counted as the wealthiest and most influential man in their region, and that Saul was the most handsome in all of Israel, and that Saul and his family were the focus of all of Israel's hopes, according to God's plan for their lives, recorded in 1 Samuel 9:20.
But, none of that began to matter to Saul.
He already saw himself as less than, but in that moment—in the moment where the people teased him for the way God was using him, even after God's very own Spirit led Saul to prophesy and gave him a new heart and changed him into a new person—Saul heard what the people were saying, and he took it to heart and went home defeated.
How do I know?
Because the Bible records in 1 Samuel 10:16, a couple verses after Saul heard the mockery of the people, the Bible says that when Saul's uncle asked him about his trip, Saul didn't even mention the kingdom. Which is kind of odd, don't you think? God called Saul and his entire family to be the focus of all of Israel's hopes. Don't you think Saul would've been running home, arms wide open, out of breath in excitement to tell his entire family about what God said about them and the plans He has for their lives? I know I would! Let me find out that my family and I won the lottery. You already know I'd bust our front door wide open, squealing and yelling and planning the kinds of vacations we're going to go on and the mansions we're going to buy and the shopping trips I'm going to take. I'd be freaking out happy out of my mind!!!
The people's rumors, their gossip, their comments, and their disbelief so penetrated Saul's heart that he couldn't even tell his uncle—who was a part of God's plan since he was a part of Saul's family—the good news.
Which now tells us this:
After we already saw how insecure Saul was by getting an inside look of what he thought about himself and his family, now we see how the insecurity was actually a fear all along because of the way he reacted to the people's reaction of him. And, because Saul heard how lowly the people thought about his wealthy, influential father and Saul's good looks, he allowed their words to water his insecurity and give it sunshine, so its roots grew deeper in fear. He let the people's opinions about what God was calling him to and what God was doing in his life annihilate his confidence.
Which is something you should know about the fear of man. It starts in your mind and how you think about yourself, but if you don't deal with it there, it won't be able to be contained. The moment a person influences you, whether positively or negatively—if you want the truth, the fear overlaps the boundaries of your mind and starts to affect your relationships, making an even bigger mess than before. In Saul's case, his refusal to deal with his insecurity showed up in an extremely embarrassing way at his ceremony. He was prepared to be announced king in 1 Samuel 10:17-23, a couple of verses after Saul couldn't find the confidence to tell his uncle what happened. And, the Bible says that all the people of Israel (1 Samuel 10:17) came to this ceremony—including the ones who teased him, we'd have to assume. And, I can just see Saul standing off to the side, completely in his head and insecure as Samuel begins to call out all of the tribes and families of Israel (1 Samuel 10:20-21) to choose which one would rise to the throne. I can see Saul silently praying, "PLEASE don't call the tribe of Benjamin. Especially not in front of those people who made fun of me!!!"
And, sure enough, Saul's tribe, Saul's family, and Saul's name got called, and it was announced that it was they who would step into the kingdom.
And, you want to know where Saul was when the announcement was made? You want to know why I think Saul was having a panic attack as he heard the sound of his name get called?
Because, the Bible records in 1 Samuel 10:22 that Saul was...(prepare to cringe)...
SAUL WAS HIDING.
See for yourself in 1 Samuel 10:22! In fact, Saul was hiding so well that verse 23 says the people had to find him and bring him out. Meaning, this man was so full of shame and self-doubt and insecurity that he didn't even willingly come from his hiding place. The people literally had to tug his arm and pull him out. How embarrassing!!!
Even further, the Bible records in that same verse—verse 23—that when Saul was brought out, he stood head and shoulders taller above everyone else, which lets me know that Saul must've been hiding pretty well because, after all...he was a big boy! He was not hard to miss. The man was taller than everyone else in that room, the Bible says! So, he must've been so ashamed of himself that he was deeply encouraged to hide and hide well.
And, can I tell you something, reader?
That's exactly what shame does.
It hides you. It convinces you to not be seen. And, not only that, but it makes your hiding spot feel so safe and secure. Shame will give you a nice cot, a mini fridge, a cupboard full of snacks, and a flat-screen TV if that means you won't leave. As long as you promise to not be confident, as long as you continue to tear yourself down, and most importantly, as long as you DON'T step into what God is calling you to be, shame will keep you perfectly comfortable.
And, that's exactly how it hid Saul.
Because, now at this point of his story, we don't just see Saul's insecurity, and we don't just see his fear of man. We also see his shame. And, unfortunately, reader, Saul's story doesn't get any better.
He goes onto disobey God multiple times, lead by his own strength and not by God's spirit, becomes tormented by fear and depression, grows in jealousy and hatred towards the new king after him—King David—to the point of wanting to kill him, dies a sorry death...
...and, the worst part?
Saul never repents.
If he did, Scriptures tell us over and over again that God would not turn a repentant heart away. That's the theme of God's goodness. Though we mess up time and time again, the minute we turn back to God, we'll find Him with His arms wide open. But, unfortunately, that is not what Saul saw by the end of his life. He never turned from his sin, never allowed God to touch the pride and the fear and the insecurity in his heart. He's not remembered as a strong king of Israel. He let the fear of man destroy his entire legacy.
And, reader, this may go without saying, but I don't want to be like King Saul. I don't want to have a poor mindset, a low self-esteem, multiple fears, and a bucket load of shame. I want to be a bold, brave, faith-filled, and confident leader. I want to be filled with and led by the Holy Spirit. I want to believe what God says about me and not what people say about me or even what I say about me. I want to be so in agreement with God's plan for my life that I am not distracted or tempted by anything else, nor am I insecure when I notice that God's plan for someone else looks similar to my assignment.
I don't want to be like King Saul, and I certainly don't want you to be like King Saul. I want us all to be more like David, who says in Psalms 18:2, "The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my savior; my God is my rock, in whom I find protection. He is my shield, the power that saves me, and my place of safety." And, "I will praise the Lord at all times. I will constantly speak his praises. I will boast only in the Lord; let all who are helpless take heart." in Psalms 34:1-2. I want us to be after God's own heart like King David was. I want us to have a heart of worship like King David had and have the kind of faith that can knock Goliath down like King David did.
I don't want us to be like King Saul. I want us to be like King David.
So, let's do what David did. Let's let God have the final word over our lives.
Let's pray what David prayed in Psalms 139:24, that God would point out the offenses in our hearts and lead us along the path of everlasting life. In other words, in our specific case for today's post, let God deal with your fear. Don't shy away or smack His hand back when He goes near that spot in your heart. Find Him there. Seek Him there. He wants to do away with it, and He needs your permission. He wants to heal the wounds that made you so afraid in the first place. He wants to deal with your past, your childhood, your upbringing. So, let Him! Let Him redeem the wrong voices spoken over you throughout your life, and don't let yourself grow any more comfortable believing those lies. Don't move forward until you've dealt with this fear because you won't move on successfully until you do. This requires a deep humility under God's mighty hand and a willingness to believe God's truth about who you are. As scary as it may seem, this is how you overcome fear. You need to let God lead the way. You need to let God show you the truth. And, just as God would be willing to forgive Saul had he repented, God won't turn you away either. So, turn to Him. Find Him with His arms wide open, a knowing smile planted on His face, and get to know what He's saying about you. Chew on it, meditate on it, breathe it, eat it, memorize it, talk about it. Stay very close to His Word, so He can prepare you for what's next. Don't put up with the fear of man any longer. Let today be the day you deal with it for good.