What Do People Say?
Years ago I read a book entitled “Hoda” by Hoda Kotb. It was quite entertaining. I don’t remember much of the details, but one particular question felt like an arrow directed straight at my heart. “What do people say about you when you leave the room?” One of my first thoughts was the faculty lounge; this is what we called it years ago. Now, we more appropriately call it the workroom, which I happen to like much better! Anyway, this question preyed on my insecurities and my preoccupation with what others thought of me. My over-analytical mind went into overdrive, conjuring up all of my shortcomings and times I had compromised my Christian witness. So, what did I do? Tried harder of course. I committed to doing better and being better. Sometimes I as successful; other times I failed. It was, and is, a vicious cycle.
As God continues to work on my heart, who I am is changing. I wished I didn’t care what others said about me when I leave the room, but I do. However, why I care is changing, and this has become a critical shift in my thinking. You see, if our reason for caring is focused on self, we can easily become obsessed with pleasing others. Our desire to be liked can become the driving force behind our words and actions. Deep down in our souls we can be left with a sense of longing, falling short, and never being good enough.
However, as we grow in our relationship with Christ, we become less worried about what people think of us. Instead, we become more concerned about God’s approval and how Christ is reflected in our lives. While this sounds good on paper, it proves to be difficult in practice. As our culture becomes less and less tolerant of Christianity, it becomes more challenging to be part of the crowd. This isn’t anything new. New Testament Christians experienced the same thing and were often forced to take a stand. What we have to decide is this: Who will we seek to please?
Obviously, I’m not trying to win the approval of people, but of God. If pleasing people were my goal, I would not be Christ’s servant. Galatians 1:10
For we speak as messengers approved by God to be entrusted with the Good News. Our purpose is to please God, not people. He alone examines the motives of our hearts. 1 Thessalonians 2:4
As I meditated on these verses, questions flooded my mind.
Could it be that in our desire to please others, we have begun to value blending in (making sure we don’t step on any toes) over the Biblical truths of God’s Word?
Have we slipped into what many are calling “casual Christianity” or “convenient Christianity?”
Could God be calling all of us to be a bit bolder? More courageous?
When we leave the room, do people say nice things about us but have no idea what we believe?
Are we willing to speak God’s truth even if it means others might say disparaging things about us?
Do we care more about what people think than pleasing God?
These are tough and convicting questions we must ask ourselves. You may be reading this and thinking, “I’ve already blown it.” You may worry that your past actions can’t be undone. This is exactly what Satan wants you to think. Nothing could be further from the truth. God is in the transformation business (2 Corinthians 3:18). He loves you. He desires what is best for you (Psalm 84:11, Psalm 145:9). With time and cooperation on our part, the answer to the question, “What do people say about me?” can and will change.
Now I can’t help but wonder if there is someone reading this blog who is saying, “I don’t care what people think.” I have certainly heard this many times in my life and likely have said it myself. I sometimes wonder if this isn’t a defense mechanism we use to protect ourselves from hurtful comments. It may be, but there may be times when we really don’t care. Is that okay? As Christians, pleasing God over others may result in unfavorable comments when we leave the room. People may not characterize us in glowing terms, but if they know we love them and love Jesus, who cares? (Matthew 5:10-11) It isn’t what we make of ourselves; it is what we make of Him! (I Corinthians 1:31).
Bottom line—if our goal is to point people to Jesus, then the question, “What do people say about you when you leave the room?” is something we should all take seriously. How can we as Christian educators not dismiss this question but learn to embrace it?
First, let go of the past and people’s perceptions. Start today to change the scenario. Maybe you have blended in, flying beneath the radar. Perhaps you have been insensitive or even participated in gossip. You can put an end to that today. Start with acknowledgement, and then take action. Don’t let the past dictate your future. With God’s help, you are able. (Isaiah 41:10, Philippians 4:13)
Second, surround yourself with believers who will be honest with you. These are the kind of confidants we could ask, “What do people say about me when I leave the room?” We need people in our lives who are willing to be open and honest with us. They don’t just help us see our shortcomings. They also keep us from beating ourselves up, reminding us of who we are in Christ Jesus.
Third, look for opportunities to build and/or mend relationships. Who has God placed on your heart or put in your sphere of influence? Do you need to ask for forgiveness? How can you actively demonstrate kindness and compassion toward them? How can you begin to share the love of Jesus with them without compromising your beliefs?
Finally, don’t shy away from the tough topics or difficult conversations. When a door opens to share the truth of God’s Word, don’t walk the other way or stay silent. We can share the truth in love. (Ephesians 4:15, Zechariah 8:16) Keep in mind, it isn’t about sharing our opinions. It is about sharing what God says in His Word. People need to know that we choose to believe His Word is true!
As we grow in faith, immersing ourselves in God’s Word and prayerfully seeking Him, the answer to the question, “What do people say about you when you leave the room?” will evolve. Hopefully, our lives will point others to Jesus. People may not always say what we would like, but as long as our heart’s desire is to please God and serve Him, we can let go of the need to please others. God knows our motives, and this is really all that matters.