You are only truly free when you stop caring what people think about you - when you stop giving a rip.
That's how Jesus wanted it for us - He remarked numerous times about not fearing men, because ultimately they can't do much to us after we die. Instead Jesus insisted we fear God because His justice is something we should worry about, at least until we find His grace and forgiveness – and some might suggest after-the-fact that a bit of fear of the Lord is good for keeping us in line, notwithstanding tempered by the realisation of His infinite love.
Practically how does one actually stop giving a rip? 'Fear of man', or more specifically for now, the preoccupation and concern over what other people might think or how they might react, really isn't just something that can be decided against can it?
If I say: 'today I choose not to care what my boss thinks', or whoever else it might be, can I really cause my emotional responses to fall into line when I am around that person? Can I be casually calm and relaxed next time someone puts me on the spot, is rude or interrogates me, simply by deciding to beforehand?
It seems to me that people who are calm and confident in themselves react better when put under pressure, because they can think more rationally without a racing mind, and elicit quicker and sharper responses. The stress hormones don't immobilise the self confident person – although some people have a narrow focus in response to stressful situations that allows them to perform well. But for now let's stay on the topic of disabling our 'fear of man'.
To take it to the extreme, imagine a situation where someone is verbally berating you, and abusing you with all sorts of invectives and name-calling. Could you just sit there quietly ignoring them, being totally un-phased by their tirade – without being emotionally offended and upset? Honestly I probably couldn't, but to be able to do so in my books is to overcome an important area in our quest to 'not fear men', as instructed by Jesus.
If one doesn't feel any indignity and need to save face or even defend themselves when subject to this sort of abuse they truly don't care what other people think. A great example here was Jesus' silence upon being confronted by the scornful accusations of the high priests at his sham trial.
Indifference to the opinion of others
What we need is a little dose of indifference to the opinions of others. It just means we stop letting other people dictate or influence how we behave or react based on our perception of their reactions or thoughts about us.
It means I choose to respond rather than just reacting to my emotions under the circumstances before me. It should be mentioned also that emotions aren't always something that can be simply shoved under the carpet, and anxiety and stress under certain circumstances is perfectly normal, but the mark of a person is how they in fact respond to the situation, and the courage they show in doing so.
In saying this Jesus said 'do not fear' -- does that mean that this emotion I call 'fear' simply needs to be quashed and snuffed to the extent that I no long feel these emotions in normally stressful situations? Well I believe this is possible and I have a few tools that could help.
The most important tool we need in order to rise above our fears is to solicit spiritual protection from God, that will cover our hearts(the wellspring of our lives). I believe this is not dissimilar to putting on the armour of God as mentioned in Ephesians. One might also consider praying for courage. Many occasions I've sought this strength from God to have it well up in me, eviscerating fear and replacing it with boldness and confidence.
Mental Preparation (but not obsessively, as Jesus said: 'do not think about what you will say'). Obsessively rehearsing what we might say in every confronting situation smacks as a form of worry - but being calmly prepared by considering a general approach in response to a set of behaviours strikes me as a form of wise contemplation.
We should seek to make ourselves mentally aloof from poisonous and toxic people around us, not reacting to them emotionally and reflexively, but still acting in a 'loving' way.
One common factor of bullies and predators is that they are experts at sniffing out fear. And an emotional reaction by an insecure/afraid person is a dead give-away for them to hone in on you. However a soft and calm indifference in attitude or a strong rebuttal, if discretion chooses, is how non-afraid(confident & secure) people act in abrasive confrontations with others.
The last tool I will touch on to assist in disabling our fear of people, is the tool of perspective. An example of having perspective is being mindful of the fact that there are 7 billion people on this earth, and our individual lives are relatively trivial in the cosmic scheme of affairs in the world.
That doesn't mean we are insignificant to God, but the petty attitudes, pretentions and condescension of 'men' and women are utterly insignificant. This is to the extent that you could simply move on and cease contact with those toxic people(which cause you fear & anxiety) if you desperately needed to. These people can be avoided, along with their poisonous tongues, and they can be left in the past and distant memory.
This perspective and state of mind really helps in one's endeavour to stop caring about the impressions and opinions of toxic people.
We should certainly pray for those who generate fear in our lives but not indulge them in any toadying; neither reward them with fake pleasantries. That is.. don't entertain the fool and arrogant people.
Even if we disassociate from those who evoke anxiety and fear in us we can love our enemies by praying for them and not reacting rudely when they can't be avoided. Wise people protect their hearts by choosing their friends and associates carefully, and taking measures to remove themselves from the company of toxic people.
Amos Sale grew up in Auckland and recently moved to Wellington to assist his girlfriend with her youth ministry. Amos enjoys learning about history, politics, philosophy and biology and he likes sci-fi and action movies. Amos has a passion to defend the Christian worldview and value system against its enemies and detractors by any means he can, and to encourage others to seek out an experiential encounter with God. He is recently been engaged.
Amos Sale's previous articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/amos-sale.html