Reviving Motherhood

Learning on the Journey

31 Days: Fear of What Others Think

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{art: Elizabeth Nourse}

I used to be obsessed with what others thought. 

As I thought about this recently, I remembered an embarrassing story from my new-mom days.

Guests were on their way to our house.  My oldest was just a few months old and they hadn’t seen her since she was born.

I put her in her cutest pajamas, spread out her cutest quilt on the floor with a few toys, and placed her in the middle of the blanket as our guests pulled into the driveway.

Little Miss Busy would have none of it.  Unaware of my plan to have her looking perfectly cute when our friends walked in the door, she crawled off the blanket to explore more interesting things.

In frustration I put her back. And of course, she crawled off again.

By the third time I was getting really irritated.  And then, before the doorbell rang I found myself appalled by my ridiculous behavior.

I was absolutely bent on creating the perfect impression to control what others thought of me and my child.

And when I couldn’t achieve that, I became angry.

Although I had operated in that mindset for years (which is manipulative, really), this time I saw it for the pride that it was.

Although this is a silly, over-the-top (though sadly true) tale, don’t we often care a lot about what people think about us and our kids?

And don’t we fear their disapproval?

This fear of what others thought was partially what drove me to set a graceless standard for my children that was higher than I set for myself, to try to create robotically obedient clones who would make me look good.  It wasn’t the only reason, but it was part of it.  It didn’t work, and it created a lot of fear in me.

Pride is often (usually?) the root of fear. Christ-followers know that he is big enough to handle whatever we are afraid of, yet we cling to the idea that our worry can somehow make a difference.

In any case, for years and years I heard words in my head, words from my past like, “Can you believe she let her kids act that way?”  “What little monsters!”  and “They should keep their children under control.”  Growing up in a “first time obedience” culture, I heard comments like this all the time.

And I was just plain scared of what others thought.

But here’s the deal, moms.

You don’t answer to other people.

You just answer to God.

What other people think is not important.

Oh, it’s ingrained in us to think so.

We want to be the best moms we can be.  We want to raise our kids well.  But we want to raise them for God and according to his directive, not for our parents, our in-laws, our best friend, a conference speaker, or that perfectly together mom that we really want to be friends with.

People are going to judge.  As a former Olympic-level judger, I can attest to that.  They’ll judge you because you are too liberal, because you are too disorganized, because your family doesn’t hold to their standards of modesty or movies.  They’ll judge you if your lawn is shaggy or if you struggle with homemaking.  They’ll judge you if you’re overweight or not stylish enough.  And they’ll especially judge for the behavior of your children.  Not everyone will, but there will be some.

After years, I finally realized that I didn’t have to fear this.

I should only worry about what one person thinks—God.

My loving father who, Isaiah says, gently leads those who have young.  My good shepherd who makes me lie down in green pastures and leads me beside still waters, the God who restores my soul.  God who extends grace and mercy, whose strength is made perfect in our weakness.

That God.

His opinion is the only one who matters.

“The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is safe.” Proverbs 29:25

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This post of part of 31 Days of Fearless Mothering

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Look for my eBook, Fearless Mothering, in November!

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Linking:

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8 thoughts on “31 Days: Fear of What Others Think

  1. I’m really enjoying your series. Seems we have a lot in common. I still struggle with what others think, and worry that I’ll pass that tendency on to my kids.

  2. Imperfectlyfabulous…It is an easy trap to fall into, isn’t it? I have to admit that I don’t have it down yet…But we have to give ourselves grace as we grow. Recognizing where we’re weak is the first step!

  3. I think that you have alot in common with lots of moms/women all OVER the world. We are all made of the same stuff. Thank-you so much for sharing. I am enjoying this series as well.

  4. Thank you so much, jem! Yes, I agree…I am sure “fear of man” is a universal phenomenon!

  5. I love this! I am so guilty of caring too much about what others think of me & my kids…but I’m getting better! 😉

    I feel like this is a ‘sister post’ to something I posted a week or so ago, sharing it on my blog’s FB page today!!! 🙂

  6. Thank you so much Paula! I have seen a few “sister posts” this week…Sounds like several of us have things in common. 🙂

  7. I remember always worrying what others thought about me as a mother. It stopped me from doing things that I know God wanted me to do. It is great that you recognize this for what it is….not from God. You sound like an incredible Mom!

  8. Aw, thank you for your encouragement, Vicky! Fear of what others think is definitely paralyzing. That is a great point.

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