Why do we fear others’ disapproval so much? We all experience this fear, and most of us don’t want to admit how serious its tyranny can be.
The Bible calls this the “fear of man,” and it can weave a web of ambiguity around issues that are biblically clear. The fear of man can immobilize us when we should take action, and gag us into silence when we should speak. It feels powerful, but its power is deceptive.
That’s why the Bible tells us, “The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD is safe” (Proverbs [29:25]). The Hebrew word here for “snare” refers to traps hunters used to catch animals or birds. Snares are dangerous. If we get caught, we must do whatever it takes to free ourselves.
God has the power to free us and he wants us living in the safe freedom of trusting him. But he frees us not by removing our fear of disapproval, but transferring it to the right place. And typically, he frees us by helping us face our false fears so that they lose their power over us.
God’s Design in the Fear of Disapproval
It’s important we understand why our desire for approval and fear of disapproval is so strong.
Due to our sin, weaknesses, and perhaps traumatic past experiences, we might assume these things are merely consequences of the fall. But at the core, they’re not. God actually designed us to be motivated by these emotionally powerful forces, for they uniquely reveal what we love.
Each of us instinctively knows, as creatures, that who we are and what we’re worth are not things we define for ourselves. We didn’t create ourselves. We didn’t choose our DNA, intellectual and physical powers, families, cultures, early education, time periods, or most other major influences. We are not autonomous but contingent creatures.
And each of us also instinctively knows our existence fits into a larger purpose or story and, despite postmodernism’s attempts to convince us otherwise, it is impossible for us to create our own ultimate meaning. Deep down, we know such self-created meaning is absurd.
So, we cannot help but derive our identity, value, and meaning from external sources. Moreover, we instinctively seek them from externalpersonal sources; we know deep down they are bestowed on us by a Person.
The person(s) to whom we ascribe most authority — to define who we are, what we’re worth, what we should do, and how we should do it — is the person(s) we fear the most, because it is the person(s) whose approval we want most.
God designed us this way, for it reveals who and what our heart loves. This fear comes right from the place where our heart’s treasure is stored (Matthew [6:21]). It is a fear of losing or not obtaining something we really desire, which is why it wields such power over us.
Written by Jon Bloom
Full article at Desiring God