The knot in my stomach grows larger with each letter I type on my phone in the half-light glow of my bedroom.
Although I'm sick and need rest, I feel guilty about cancelling weekend plans with my friend. After thirty minutes of careful crafting, I finally have a "cancelled plans" text I feel mildly comfortable to send. Pressing my screen, I hear that familiar sending whoosh, wait, and resist the urge to look over my sent text and overanalyze every word.
She texts back immediately. No worries, she writes, this weekend is going to be crazy anyway. Feel better soon!
I let myself breath for what feels like the first time in forever.
Living for Others
But that sigh of relief was soon followed by questioning.
Why am I so sensitive to other people's feelings? I wondered. I thought of all the times I've kept my mouth shut to avoid confrontation. I reflected on the things I've done and places I've gone to make others happy. I remembered the moments in high school and college when the approval of my classmates and teachers mattered more to me than my own estimation of myself.
I realized that, often, I cared about what others thought more than what I thought. I cared about what other people wanted more than what I wanted. And I suffered guilt for having wants and desires of my own.
Far from a perpetual posture of humility, my worry about other people's feelings stemmed from fear and guilt and a twisted sense of pride. I felt responsible for other people's feelings.
Then I was reminded of Paul's words in his letter to a church in Galatia: I am not trying to please people. I want to please God. Do you think I am trying to please people? If I were doing that, I would not be a servant of Christ (Galatians 1:10 CEV). I realized that my concern for other people's wants and feelings was a form of people-pleasing. I lost sight of what God wanted for me and my life. I forgot I was loved by God—that he made me worth of love. I am called to live for God, not for other people.
If you're struggling with caring too much about what other people think, I encourage you to take a few moments to meditate on these verses. As you read, remember that you belong to God and that God loves you for you:
You are special. God created you as a unique individual. You are allowed to have feelings and wants of your own. God knows you.
You have looked deep
into my heart, Lord,
and you know all about me.
You know when I am resting
or when I am working,
and from heaven
you discover my thoughts.
You notice everything I do
and everywhere I go.
Before I even speak a word,
you know what I will say,
and with your powerful arm
you protect me
from every side.
I can't understand all of this!
Such wonderful knowledge
is far above me.
—Psalm 139:1-6 (CEV)
You are enough. God loves you. You don't have to prove to the world that you are worthy of love.
In everything we have won more than a victory because of Christ who loves us. I am sure that nothing can separate us from God's love—not life or death, not angels or spirits, not the present or the future, and not powers above or powers below. Nothing in all creation can separate us from God's love for us in Christ Jesus our Lord! — Romans 8:37-39 (CEV)
You belong to God. You do not belong to others. You are not responsible for fixing everyone around you.
So then, my friends, because of God's great mercy to us I appeal to you: Offer yourselves as a living sacrifice to God, dedicated to his service and pleasing to him. This is the true worship that you should offer. Do not conform yourselves to the standards of this world, but let God transform you inwardly by a complete change of your mind. Then you will be able to know the will of God—what is good and is pleasing to him and is perfect. — Romans 12:1-2 (GNTD)
You are allowed to rest. Find your rest in God. Take time to sit in God's presence and ask God to show you his truth.
As it is, however, there still remains for God's people a rest like God's resting on the seventh day. For those who receive that rest which God promised will rest from their own work, just as God rested from his. Let us, then, do our best to receive that rest, so that no one of us will fail as they did because of their lack of faith. — Hebrews 4:9-11 (GNTD)
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