Does the Bible say we should not care what others think about us? No, but it does say we must seek to please God over people.
As every Christian matures, one of the things the Holy Spirit will surely convict us of is seeking the praise of man over God. In our sinful nature, we care about what others think of us for the wrong reasons.
Caring What Others Think of You Can Be Expressed Wrongly in Two Ways
When we seek the praise of people, it can be expressed in many different ways. The two ends of the spectrum are obsessive pursuit and obsessive avoidance. One person may do anything to be praised by people, while another person will do anything not to be seen by people, but both can have the same root issue – caring too much about what people think of them.
The person shouting the loudest for attention at the party and the person who stayed home out of fear even though they were invited to the party both must confront their idolization of people, no matter how it is being expressed.
Making Sure People Know You Don’t Care What They Think Is Not the Solution
Through the journey of becoming a people pleaser to a God pleaser, there are many snares along the way. One of those stumbling blocks comes in the form of overreacting externally through expressing carelessness for man’s approval with an outward expression being emphasized for God’s approval. When we seek to show people we don’t care what they think of us “because we only care what God thinks,” we have made a subtle, yet fatal turn from what God really wants.
The Bible does not emphasize that Christians should not care what people think about them. Rather, the Bible emphasizes that Christians, above all things, should care that they are pleasing God. Pleasing man is only a sin when it usurps or compromises our pursuit of pleasing God.
If pleasing God should be our top aim (Galatians 1:10), and God cares how we are expressing ourselves to the world (Colossians 3:6), then “to care what other people think” about you is a pleasing act to God if your motivation is correct. We must all repent of idolizing the praises of man, but when we seek to please God rather than man, our outer presentation may not need to change much. The inner motivations and reasons for our smiles, our laughter, our desire to be liked, however, must change in our hearts so our motivation is honoring to God.
Caring What Others Think About You (for the right reasons) Helps You Care About People
If we’re not careful, our effort to not care about what others think can subtly turn into not caring about anyone. If the way someone thinks of us is hindering our witness or service, and we have it in our power without sinning to change the way someone thinks of us by presenting ourselves differently, then the most pleasing thing to God would be to do what we can to improve that persons perception of us.
God is no respecter of persons, showing no favoritism (Acts 10:34), but that does not mean he is a disrespecter of persons and never shows favor. We must not fear man or his opinion of us, but we also must not go out of our way to make sure everyone knows this about us. The more you make sure everyone knows your inner motivation, the more you stray from the heart of what God is really after.
One reasons God tells us not to seek the praise of people is so that we might be able to love and serve them better, not so that we can show them how superior we think we are. God knows we can’t love those we idolize because we will be too afraid of disappointing them; therefore to love God above everyone enables us to love everyone better for his glory.
Caring About God Will Cause You to Care About What Others Think (for the right reason)
One of the fruits of loving God is a love for people. The two greatest commands never contradict. You will never have to choose one over the other. Rather, by seeking to do the first (loving God), you will be enabled to do the second (loving others).
It’s sinful to be concerned with people’s opinion about you when your motivation is rooted in being seen as someone special and superior. It’s not sinful, however, to be concerned with someone’s opinion about you for the sake of your ability to proclaim the gospel to them. Paul says to live carefully amongst unbelievers so that we will make the most of every opportunity (Colossians 4:3-6). To do this, we must care about what others think of us to some degree.
Therefore we must not walk around with melancholy faces, lacking courtesy and respect for people, thinking that this is what God means for us to not seek the praises of man. We must not be rude as a way of making sure everyone knows we are devoted to God’s opinion only. This doesn’t mean we should be fake, forcing cheesy smiles or doing things that are unnatural to our personality just to be liked. Rather, we must go out of our way to present ourselves in the best light possible, not because we are people pleasers but because we are God pleasers.
We should seek to be joyful in Christ and then do our best to express that joy to others, caring (for the right reasons) what others think about us, hoping they too will find the love we have found in God.