On blogging, the fear of man, and When People are Big and God is Small

Last month the ladies’ book club at my church read When People Are Big and God is Small: Overcoming Peer Pressure, Codependency, and the Fear of Man by Ed Welch. It was, as you might imagine, a convicting albeit encouraging read, a book that will so get in your business but in the best possible way.

At the start of the book, Welch lists several questions as an aid to identify the fear of man. Among them: have you ever struggled with peer pressure? Do you find it hard to say no even when wisdom indicates that you should? Is self-esteem a critical concern for you? Are you always second guessing decisions because of what other people might think? Are you jealous of other people?

Of course these questions are quite revealing but here’s where he really stuck it to me: “Do you avoid people? If so, even though you might not say that you need people, you are still controlled by them. Isn’t a hermit dominated by the fear of man?” (emphasis mine)

What? My hermit-ude a manifestation of a fear of man?

I told you: this is a book that will totally get in your business whether you think you struggle with codependency and the fear of man or not.

The theme of the book can be summarized as follows: “The most radical treatment for the fear of man is the fear of the Lord. God must be bigger to you than people are.” Welch explores how and why we fear others and then encourages a proper view of others by growing the knowledge and fear of the Lord. He punches a hole in the prevailing self-esteem ideal by claiming people are not empty cups needing to be filled. In fact, he goes so far to say that proclaiming that Jesus came to meet our needs is at best an incomplete gospel. Consider:

When psychological needs, rather than sin, are seen as our primary problem, not only is our self-understanding affected, but the gospel itself is changed. A needs theory suggests that the gospel is, most deeply, intended ot meet psychological needs. In other words, the gospel is aimed at our self-esteem problem. It is aimed at our tendency to dwell on our failures. It is intended to be a statement of God’s love saying that “God doesn’t make junk.”

This sounds good to us, but it is not the gospel. The good news of Jesus is not intended to make us feel good about ourselves.

Further,

Jesus did not die to increase our self-esteem. Rather Jesus died to bring glory to the Father by redeeming people from the curse of sin…the cross deals with our sin problem, our spiritual need.

As I said, whether you think you struggle with people pleasing or not, I think you will find When People Are Big and God is Small to be convicting and challenging as you evaluate who or what you fear and what you think you need. In fact, that’s been my primary response after reading: asking myself what it is I want most and correspondingly what is it I fear most. Welch asserts that “who or what you need will control you.”

What controls me?

Well, you don’t have the time and I certainly don’t have the desire to air all my dirty laundry here on the blog (you may thank me in the comments). I will say, however, that the blog, my writing life, is one area in which I do struggle with seeking and wanting validation and approval and thus I fear…well, I fear lots of things: poor writing, looking stupid, no one reading, everyone reading, being wrong…I think you get the picture. And I find Welch is correct: these fears control me.

Take today for instance. I spent an hour (okay, more) struggling to write a post. The words wouldn’t come, everything I said was forced and empty and dull, and to top it off I discovered I had written and published something eerily similar several months ago. And that post showed no evidence of grasping for words but quite the opposite. Instead, it was so well written I was quite impressed with myself and then terribly, horribly insecure over the post I attempted to write today. At that moment I was my own enemy and the cause of my own peer pressure! Crazy, isn’t it?

Writing is an intensely personal endeavor, or at least it is for me. I often feel exposed and vulnerable and that can be scary. Not only that but because it is personal it is easy to make otherwise objective parameters–comments, for example–a referendum on me. I know, I know, it’s dumb and all that but there it is.

I know that blogging or not blogging isn’t an issue of great import, certainly not when these same kinds of struggles may be manifested in more critical areas, my relationships for example. But the answer to my foolishness, in blogging or in other codependent issues? A bigger God, a smaller me. Welch reminds me…

[Y]ou must be controlled by the truth of God more than your own feelings. God’s Word, not feelings, is our standard. To be driven by our fluctuating sense of well-being may seem spiritual, but it is wrong. It exalts our interpretation above God’s. That is why it is so important to immediately turn to God after any biblically guided introspection. When we listen to God, he speaks words that fill an empty soul.

And,

He blesses and frees us by saying, “Fear me and me alone.” This is exactly what we need. It gives us the privilege of being controlled by our loving and just Savior rather than other people.

So I put that other post aside and instead write this one as a reminder to myself of the foolishness of seeking the approval of people. I choose to fear the Lord and rest secure in Him.

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Author: Lisa Spence

Wife, mother, Bible teacher, bibliophile, occasional blogger

10 thoughts on “On blogging, the fear of man, and When People are Big and God is Small

  1. I think for now on I’m going to use this line for my negative replies, “Wisdom indicates that I should say no.” Teehee.
    I just finished reading Welch’s book on the same topic for a younger audience, “What Do You Think of Me? Why Do I Care?” to my daughters. I am looking forward to reading “When People are Big” for myself. Thanks for the review, I love how you revealed the reflections you had while reading, and how you were able to apply what you learned.
    It’s so strange for me to read about your insecurities as a writer, because you’re one of my favorites. But I can identify. Another book that was helpful for me in this area was Dave Harvey’s “Rescuing Ambition.” He really helped me to get the right perspective of whom I am serving. This helps me to take more risks of putting myself out there, because if God gifted me, then he expects me to use it. And if he closes a door by rejection, or so-called failure, then that is an affirmation that he is leading me somewhere else.
    So basically my long-winded response in two, short words is, keep writing!

    1. I read Harvey’s “Rescuing Ambition” years ago; maybe I need to pick it back up again!

      Thanks for the encouragement to keep writing and it’s always good to know that one’s insecurities are understood and even shared. 🙂

  2. I bought this book for the church library recently. I need to borrow it as I struggle with blogging and fear of man, too. I’m in the middle of writing my post for Wednesday. In the back of my mind is the thought “Will people like it?”. I need to exchange that thought for “This is unto the Lord regardless of what anyone thinks.”

  3. I need to pick that book back up and finish it! I doubt there’s a conscientious Christian blogger out here who doesn’t agonize over all the same things you mentioned Lisa. I know I sure do. I have to remind myself constantly that I really only need to be writing for an audience of One. But it’s still nice to know I’m not alone in my insecurity. 🙂

    1. Yes, a shared journey is an easier journey and that is no different when it comes to our insecurities. Thank you for your comment, Diane, and your commiseration! 🙂

  4. I first went though this book as a group study, as well, several years ago. I think it would be interesting to reread now on my own.This is a really important book, and probably one that I could benefit from reading just about once a year.

  5. There are many reasons I’m not writing so much during this season (one can classify a year as a “season”, right?). I’m not entirely sure that I know what they all are, but one is definitely that I feel so many other bloggers say it better than I. Geesh…another book I need to add to my list! 🙂

    And I echo Aimee’s comment…keep writing!

    1. In blogging, any time frame can be considered a “season”! Goodness knows I’ve had my own seasons of both plenty and want. 🙂 Thanks for your comment and encouragement. Both mean a lot to me.

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