Friday, August 8, 2008

What Others Think

Whenever you hate, the only person you hurt is yourself. Because the person you hate often doesn't know it, or if they do, they don't care.

I heard that from the movie Ghosts of Mississippi several years ago. It's something the late great civil rights leader Medgar Evers was supposed to have said, and something I've held onto and tried to apply to my life ever since hearing it.

I told that to my young friend from church the other night. He was telling me about how he had begun to feel about some of the people at our church. He knows deep down they are good, loving, people (and I agree), but that the way they have treated him is far from good or loving (also agree). And because of their response to him, he now worries about what others think about him and what they are saying about him behind his back. Because of that, he said he had begun holding a grudge toward some of them. That bothers him because these are people who prior to his coming out he really did admire, respect, and love, and whom he thought they felt the same about him. I told him to try to let go of those harsh feelings. That's a hard thing to do sometimes, but it's a worse thing to go around carrying those negative feelings inside you all the time. It simply weighs you down and wears you out. I also told him to try not to worry so much about what others think of him. What others think doesn't matter. It's what God thinks that counts. People will either love you or hate you, so you should just be yourself and not worry about what they think. But God loves us more than any of us could ever imagine. And He'll never stop loving us. The advice seemed to have helped him a little, but I could tell he was still bothered.

I wonder why so many people put such heavy burdens upon themselves. Why do we think so much about what others think? Why do we blame ourselves for things that are out of our control? Why do we overwork ourselves? Why do we worry so much? What good is any of it?

I know I have trouble with all of these things. I do worry too much about what others think of me. I try to be a good worker, a good son, a good brother, a good friend, a good student, a good Christian, and so on and so on. I want people to like me. I know it's unrealistic to expect that everyone should, and I know it's probably stupid of me to get upset when people don't like me, but it does bother me sometimes when they don't. Perhaps that's a little bit of pride on my part, but I think this is something common for most people. We all want to be well liked by others. I know of very few who'd admit to enjoying being hated. But as much as we'd like to be liked by others, we should care far more about how God thinks of us. God always loves us no matter what. He never stops loving us. And in everything we do, we shouldn't think about what our friends, family, or peers are going to think of us, but how God will think. The phrase “What would Jesus do?” I believe is a worthy saying to apply to all things. In all that we do, are we going to be more concerned with what everyone around us is going to think, or are we going to care more about what God will think?

Take Noah, for example. Noah was a Godly man who followed the Lord with all his heart while the society around him was falling into sin and moral decay, turning away from God. Rather than follow their ways, Noah chose to follow after the Lord. And when God told him a flood was coming and to build an ark, Noah obeyed. Now, the whole time Noah was building the ark, all those around him mocked him and made fun of him. “You're crazy,” they told him, and urged him to stop his work and to come join in on their sinning. But Noah resisted and remained true to the Lord. He cared more about what God thought and wanted than what everyone else around him thought. And in the end, that's what saved his life once the flood came and everyone else was killed.

We can all take comfort in that story. Whenever people put us down, abuse us, shut us out, or mistreat us in any way, we can always take comfort in knowing God loves us, and knowing that so long as we're living our lives His way, that's all that matters. If we're going to worry about anything, that's what we should worry about.

I see in my friend someone who can go on to do incredible things for the Lord. He wants to do good for others and he believes and understands Christianity in a way I only wish I could have when I was his age. I'm bothered that so many at our church can't see that at the moment and have turned away from him. I'm angered that they'd rather judge him and push him away instead of reach out to him with love and understanding to bring him even closer to the Lord. I mean, here is someone whose testimony could bring countless numbers of people closer to God and salvation. Why would anyone want to push someone like that away and not use him for such great purposes?

I'm gonna try not to hold a grudge against any of them myself. Like my friend, I don't want to think badly of these people. What good would that do me, or anyone else? All that sort of thinking ever does is tears me up inside, and causes me to do things I normally wouldn't do. I don't want to feel that way anymore.

I think putting trust in God is perhaps one of the hardest things for any of us to do. We can believe in God and have faith that can move mountains, but when it comes to making decisions, it's so easy for us to choose the worldly way over God's ways. But if we can trust Him, and do the things He wants us to do, and obey Him by not doing the things He doesn't want us to do, we can never go wrong. God will always deliver us and see us through any situation.

So I wonder sometimes why we so often put such heavy burdens upon ourselves. Why do we put ourselves through so much heartache and grief, worrying so much? Why do we lose hope and turn to other things that never bring us any happiness? Why are we so hard on ourselves when our lives don't go completely as planned? Why do we so often chase after the wind—such a meaningless pursuit—when following after Christ is our only true hope? Why do we care so much about what others think when we have a God that loves us each so very, very much, despite all our flaws and inabilities?


Anonymous said...

Resentment is like letting someone live rent free in your head.

Janey said...

Thank you for sharing your thoughts here. It's really touched on the heart of what I've been working through.

Brandon said...

Anonymous, that sounds like a familiar statement, and one that's very true. I wonder if maybe I know you?

Janey, I'm glad what I wrote helped you. Glory to God for that! :)