What Matters Most
I’ve never really been one of those people who don’t care what anyone thinks. I’m emotional and pretty sensitive by nature. I’ve had to special order a thicker skin on many occasions, and over time I’ve just had to come to the conclusion that not all opinions will be solicited or positive. But even after all the spiritual growth I’ve gone through, the opinions of other people can sometimes still sway the way I view myself or certain situations.
We live in an ‘I don’t care’ society. People claim to not care about so many things, but still dedicate their time, energy, and money to them. We ‘don’t care’ about certain artists of musicians, but we still listen to their music or watch their television shows. We ‘don’t care’ about certain celebrities but we’re still checking their Instagram feeds and Facebook timelines. We ‘don’t care’ about certain people but for some reason our conversations and thoughts are consumed by them. The truth is, you care, but sometimes being surrounded by people who don’t approve of that interest makes you feel like you have to pretend you don’t. And sometimes we don’t want to admit that we care because we actually wish we didn’t. I’ve been in both situations. Either way, ‘not caring’ isn’t always something to be desired. I don’t think it makes me any more resilient when I pretend that I don’t care about something. I think that’s harboring denial and feeding distorted insight, and those are two things I you really hard not to do.
When it comes to the opinions of people who know us personally, I think we should care what they think. Anyone who says that they don’t care what their parents, closest friends, or lover thinks is either lying or doesn’t value those relationships. A byproduct of intimacy is meaningful consideration of opinion or feeling. Simply put, when you really care about someone, what they think matters to you, and in some cases has the power to influence your decisions or make you re-evaluate your direction. These kinds of things help people understand what they’re worth to you. In relationship it is important to allow the other person to have a degree of influence over you, not so that they can feel a sense of power, but so that they understand that you think they’re worth compromising for and accommodating. If my future husband wasn’t willing to modify his plans or behavior in lieu of my input, I’d feel like he didn’t care about me.
So we should care what the people we love think, it should matter, and we should be willing to accommodate them in certain aspects of our lives.
However, there are times when these opinions have too much power over us. In these instances, what they say or how they feel can overshadow what we know, and our sense of identity. Sometimes we can allow the thoughts others have about us to overshadow what Yahweh thinks about us, and we can allow what people have to say to overshadow what Yahweh has to say. In these cases, it’s not the fact that you care that’s the problem – it’s that these views have been given the wrong authority.
On my journey to freeing myself from being pushed around by opinions, the Holy Spirit got involved and told me that what people – those I’m in close relationship with and those I’m not – have to say will matter, but what He says should matter most.
Yahweh’s voice should be the governing sense of direction and the ultimate authority in my life. What He thinks about me and my decisions, how He feels about me and my personality, His plans for my life and which direction it will go in, these are what should ultimately be shaping my destiny.
Since adjusting my attitude to reflect this perspective, I am finding that it’s easier to live authentically. I’ve been in spaces where I know people are discussing me – and not in a good way – and I tried desperately to convince myself that I didn’t care. Sometimes I let arrogance dictate my posture, because being stuck up is easier than feeling everything. I’ve become an isolated ice queen when the negative opinions of people around me began to affect me more deeply than I was willing to admit. I will shut down and stay away. And I’ve come to learn that you can’t grow through anything if you’re too preoccupied with maintaining a fake sense of well-being to hear the Holy Spirit giving instructions on how to navigate.
I will care, and I will most likely never stop caring, but if I can respond in a way that indicates that Yahweh’s opinion of me matters more than everyone else’s, I will eventually get to a point where I feel the care, but don’t lash out or shut down.
In a lot of internal conflict, I find that attempting to minimize feelings is never a good strategy. Instead, I think it’s always better to magnify Yahweh. When we fix our focus on Yahweh, His magnificence doesn’t necessarily shrink our feelings, it just puts them in perspective. Even though you may be consumed by shame, or guilt, or regret, or anger, Yahweh’s love is infinitely greater, a million times stronger, and more transformational than any response you can manage to have toward people, situations, or circumstances. He’s bigger than the fact that you care. And He’s able to help you manage all that care you have.
But you have to be able to honestly admit that you do care, and it is pushing you into self-preservation mode. Yahweh is always around for a heart-to-heart, I promise you that. He will never roll His eyes at your admissions or minimize your feelings. But He will put those feelings in perspective, and He will invite you to view everything you’re feeling relative to Himself. He will prioritize your heart list, if you let Him.
But then this begs the question, how do I know what Yahweh thinks of me?
Great question. The answer is identity.
Inside of relationship with Yahweh, there is a wealth of knowledge about ourselves, and this world we live in, available to us. As we grow more and more intimate with Yahweh, He shares His heart for us with us. He tells us who we are, He identifies us. He roots us in Himself, and He makes us stable. In short, He establishes our identity. And on some level, when we care disproportionately about what people think on a consistent basis, we probably haven’t had a complete revelation of who we are in that area just yet.
Where identity has not defined us, we will feel like we have something to prove. I’m working on two of these areas right now – areas of my life where the opinions of others have way too much authority. I feel like I have something to prove to these people, and in my attempts to prove myself, I keep missing Him.
I’m actively working on letting Yahweh define me in all aspects, not just the external ones. I want to feel His affirmation and peace even when I care about what other people have to think. I’m trying this method of dealing with it, and it requires a lot of honesty and communication with the Holy Spirit, but like I always say, He’s willing and waiting to help us do hard things – like authentically acknowledging yet flourishing in the midst of wayward, painful opinions.
So, let Him tell you who you are, I guarantee it will change your life.