We humans have a sad tendency to take good things and distort them. Consider human respect, for example. God’s good plan for us has always been for us to honor, value and respect one another. In our fallen world, though, where every virtue gets distorted into a corresponding vice, too often we twist that into pursuing others’ respect, and putting their opinions ahead of our reverence for God and our duties toward Him.
Frequently this pursuit shows up in the form of fear: fear of not fitting in, or of being criticized for thinking or acting differently from other people, especially when it comes to practicing our faith. It’s a matter of fearing man more than God; being more concerned with what other people think of us, than what God thinks and expects of us. This unholy fear often causes us to make bad decisions to avoid upsetting others, or being looked down upon by them.
Ultimately — we care too much about what others might think of us.
Fear of Losing Human Respect
This shows up in all kinds of ways in our day to day lives. One way is in our silence when we hear others promoting or praising something we know is wrong, but fear of rejection or ridicule leads us to say nothing. We hear our Lord’s Holy Name being blasphemed or slandered, or we hear others call good evil and evil good, and we know we should speak up against it because it offends our Lord — but we say nothing.
Or perhaps someone is in our care, whether it be a child or an employee, and we know we should correct them because they are doing something wrong, but we say nothing out of fear of losing their respect or good favor.
I’ve grown in this area, but I still tend to fall into this sort of fear from time to time. It’s only natural that we want other people to like us. But at what cost?
Caring About God’s View of Us, Not Man’s
Our goal should be to always live life in God’s presence and according to His Will, not according to what might cause others to speak well of us.
Easier said than done, right? But remember, all things are possible with God.
To live like this takes the courage to do what we know is right, and do it for God. It means being brave enough to stand out from the crowd and not to simply take the safe route, the popular route, the easy route.
Many people are afraid of being different, or worried that they may appear intolerant or backwards in their thinking. They may simply be afraid of standing up for what is right — alone.
Do I Give in to Fear of Others?
The question I want to keep asking myself though is, am I following God? Am I following what has been passed down from the holy Scriptures and the teachings of the Church?
If we simply follow the popular opinion, we will always be fitting in with the crowd, at best. At worst, we’ll be thinking, believing and acting in a way that’s offensive to our Lord.
People tend to judge each other by their own likes or dislikes, or by their own set of fixed ideas — and this judging is almost always opinion-related. But it is impossible to make everyone happy. And you’ll end up exhausted and probably pleasing no one. Our Lord will only ever judge our actions by how much we have demonstrated our love for Him, by following all that He asks.
Say “Yes” to God’s Goodness Instead
We must instead trust God enough to be willing to do what we know is right, what God expects of us, even at the risk of being embarrassed or judged in a negative light.
The thoughts and words of men can neither add to nor subtract from your true worth. You are not a better person when you’re being praised or less of a person because someone faults your way of thinking and believing. Your only goodness, along with the goodness of everyone around you, can only come from God.
Because true goodness flows through us from God.
So give up on chasing after human respect. Never avoid doing a good deed or performing what is right, through fear of being rejected or hurt by another person. Stand firm in your faith and in what you know is true.
It’s better to walk in the right direction — even alone, than to go with a whole crowd that’s headed in the wrong direction.
Because the one who walks with God never walks alone.
Editor’s note: This article originally appeared on Grow in Virtue, and is reprinted here with kind permission.