What if they think I’m bragging? What if they think I’m weird? What if they think I’m stupid for not knowing who so-and-so is? What if they don’t understand why I’m struggling? What if they don’t get why moving was so hard?
Have you had any of those thoughts before? They may seem like the thoughts of an average self-conscious teenager, but if you look closer, there is something more going on. These are the thoughts of the anxious TCK.
I’ve been there. I’ve been the awkward girl in the US sitting in the Sunday School room. A couple seats over from the end of the row… But not too close to the middle — that might seem weird. Sometimes I’ll sit there and barely talk with anyone. Everyone there has their friends and their clique — no need to try and interrupt.
Once in a while, there will be a friendly girl. She’ll ask me where I’m from— the dreaded question. I’ll explain. “I don’t live here,” I’ll say. “I live overseas.”
There is so much locked up in that word — her presuppositions about me, her expectations, curiosity, or lack of it. I don’t know what is coming exactly — but I’m nervous.
Why am I nervous? Why do I care so much what people think about me? Why do TCKs especially struggle with this?
After years of moving, trying to fit into multiple cultures, and living an ever-changing life… the TCK finds themselves in another new place.
And the fear kicks in.
Why Fear of Man Is Problematic
That fear is wrong and sinful.
As humans, we were made to love and worship our Creator. He is to be first in our minds, our hearts, and our lives.
When we worry about what the monocultural new person will ask us or think about us, God isn’t in the first place.
We are fearing the approval of the created more than the Creator. The Creator’s approval is powerful and everlasting. The created’s opinion might seem powerful — but the approval will sway as easily as a blade of grass… and eventually wither up.
Wanting approval isn’t wrong. What matters is whose validation you are seeking.
This is where it gets tricky.
All their life, TCKs have looked to people’s approval to learn multiple cultures and languages. That’s how they’ve navigated life. It’s taken them a lot longer than most to figure out where they stand in a community and culture because those cultures and communities change a lot for most TCKs.
But here’s what we have to remember: Although people’s approval might teach you, you cannot let it rule you. Because when you fear their disapproval, you become a slave to their opinions.
The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is safe.
Escaping the Handcuffs
Trusting in the attributes of God — who God is — will change your perspective on who you are. Those who are secure in their identity won’t fear others’ opinions… because others’ opinions won’t change who they are.
My dear TCK friend, if you are in Christ, you are no longer a slave to fear.
That doesn’t mean you won’t still struggle with fear. It doesn’t mean you’ll never be anxious again. Nor does it mean you won’t feel awkward around people sometimes. It means your chain binding you to that cell wall has been broken, and you are free to walk out.
Are you struggling to walk out? Here are 3 ways you can fight against the fear of man in your life:
- Focus on who God is. He is:
- Faithful (Deuteronomy 7:9)
- Loving (1 John 4:8,10,16)
- Kind (Psalm 116)
- Eternal (Psalm 90:1-2)
- Powerful (Psalm 90:11; Psalm 24:8)
- King (Psalm 24:8)
- Wise (1 Corinthians 1:25)
- Just (Ezekiel 18:20-26)
If we have such a wonderful God as our Father, then his opinions and thoughts are precious.
How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them!
Our identity is anchored in Christ. If God is immovable, then who we are in Him is as well. Focus on that.
2. Remember, you can’t control others’ opinions. They don’t define you.
(…) in God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can man do to me? Psalm 56:11
It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man. The Lord is on my side as my helper; I shall look in triumph on those who hate me. The Lord is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me? Out of my distress, I called on the Lord; the Lord answered me and set me free. Psalm 118:5-8
3. Pray that God would take first place in your heart. The higher a place God takes in our hearts, the less important the opinions of others become.
As I write this, I feel guilty because I have not attained fearlessness. In fact, I am quite often the most fearful and anxious person in the room. But by God’s grace, I will lose fear… day by day.
Lord, please take first place in my life! Please destroy the idols of others’ opinions and take your rightful place on the throne of my heart. Let me take refuge in You. Give me the grace to focus on who You are and the immovability of my identity in You.