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When Others Speak of Us

Early in my career, I represented my employer to agents who sold insurance for our company in Northcentral Ohio cities and towns. Most of them were a generation older than me, many in business before I was born. As business owners, they valued their autonomy and exercised their authority; I could attempt to influence their actions through persuasion, but could command nothing. Leaving an agent’s office one day after a particularly difficult discussion, I thought to myself, “I can do this job with thin skin [overly sensitive to criticism] or I can do it with thicker skin. My experience under one approach will be far different than under the other.” As I walked to my car that day, I made a life-decision not to be thin-skinned—no longer would I subject my sense of wellbeing to the whim of others. I have never regretted it.

Most of us are easily influenced by what others think of us, and what they say to us or about us can be troubling—it can “get into our head.” Such was the case with David. Fleeing his own son, Absalom, and hearing what the people were saying about it, David raised the matter before the Almighty, “Many are saying of my soul, ‘There is no salvation for him in God.’”1 Public opinion weighed on Israel’s king, just as the thoughts and words of others weigh on us today. Then how we respond is crucial, for the proverbial, perilous ditches border both sides of the path. Do we retreat into isolation, disengaging from society—our silenced views and opinions in tow—and losing all effectiveness? Do we instead capitulate to critics, compromising our convictions to gain the conditional applause of others? Jesus warns us against such an exchange—truth for acceptance: “Woe to you, when all people speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets.”2

After laying his complaint before God, David confessed with his mouth what he knew in his heart to be true: “But You, Lord, are a shield around me, my glory, and the One who lifts my head.”3 He chose neither ditch, but walked the road that crested between them. Worldly ways will always tempt us to worldly responses, but wisdom is found in God. He is the One who defines us. He is the One who declares our worth. It is He who accepts us in Christ and sustains us all the days of our life. Our confidence is in Him. We are loved. We are free.

Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe. — Proverbs 29:25

Father, thank You for Your faithfulness. When I am tempted to react to rejection of any kind, draw my thoughts and heart to You, for You sustain me always. I know this full well. In Christ I pray. Amen.

1 Psalm 3:2 NASB
2 Luke 6:26 ESV
3 Psalm 3:3 NASB