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I told a group of folks at our Houston conference that when two people date, they are dating each others’ representative, not the real person. You won’t know the authentic person until marriage. Until then, the person you’re dating is representing the person you’re going to marry.
Granted, that you won’t know your spouse entirely, but he (or she) will be different than the person you dated. Your disappointment in your spouse is proportional to the disparity between the representative and the person you marry.
My teenage friend, who’s afraid to wear Walmart clothes among his peers, also suffers from this “representative problem.” Walmart is not how he wants to “represent” to those whose opinions have power over him. The biblical category for this is called fear of man. You can find the text in Proverbs 29:25: The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is safe. Notice the Hebrew parallelism:
Fear is the root cause: your starting point. Snaring is the result. Trust (Read: faith) is the root solution, and safety is the result. My teen friend chose not to trust the Lord, but to fear (and crave) the opinions of others. The result was that the views of his peers controlled how he thought, which manifest by his clothing choices. His “fear of man” gave are all the kids at his high school the power to accept or reject him.
His craving drove him for acceptance while fearing rejection. He was like a puppet on a string. They could give him a thumb’s up (or down). Up means that he will get his desire for acceptance, approval, significance, and respect. Down implies that they could reject him by making fun of his clothes. He was insecure.
Unfortunately, my teen friend placed his faith in something that others could take from him, which was their “accepting opinion.” Their view of him was driving him, and he knew it. He also knew that their opinion could change from day to day or season to season, so he closely monitored their attitudes and words to ensure that he stayed in the good favor of his controlling friends.
The irony here is that his peer group had no idea how insecure he was or what his twisted perspective of them was. Here are some of the questions I asked my friend:
An insecure person needs to go back to the gospel and rethink the implications of the cross on his life. There is a reason my teen friend is not turning to God, and I wanted to know what it was. He who trusts the Lord will be safe, but he was rejecting God for some reason, which led to his insecurity.
Do you struggle with insecurity? Of course, you do; we all do. The better question, how much do the views of others manage you? Or, does your reputation have more control of you than your identity in Christ? Here are a few things that will help you.
Instructive Video for Overcoming the Fear of Others