What Others Think of Us—Does It Matter?
ALMOST everyone likes to be praised. Compliments can make us feel good, giving us a sense of accomplishment. Approval can even make us want to improve our performance. The opposite is true when we perceive that some people disapprove of us. A cold response or a critical remark may crush our spirit. What others think of us may have a profound effect on what we think of ourselves.
It would be a mistake to ignore how others view us. We can actually benefit by having others scrutinize our conduct. When based on high moral principles, the opinions of others can act as a force for good, motivating us to be upright. (1 Corinthians 10:31-33) However, public opinion is often very unfair. Think of the distorted view the chief priests and others had of Jesus Christ when “they began to yell, saying: ‘Impale! Impale him!’” (Luke 23:13, 21-25) Viewpoints based on false information or influenced by envy or prejudice may just have to be dismissed. Hence, we need to exercise good judgment and react sensibly to the opinions of others.
Whose Opinion Matters?
We want the approval of those close to us in true worship. These include family members who are in the faith and our Christian brothers and sisters. (Romans 15:2; Colossians 3:18-21) The love and respect of fellow believers and the “interchange of encouragement” among them mean a great deal to us. (Romans 1:11, 12) With ‘lowliness of mind, we consider that others are superior to us.’ (Philippians 2:2-4) Moreover, we seek and value the approval of “those who are taking the lead” among us—the elders in the congregation.—Hebrews 13:17.
Also desirable is “a fine testimony from people on the outside.” (1 Timothy 3:7) How good it is when unbelieving relatives, workmates, and neighbors respect us! And do we not try to leave a good impression with the people to whom we preach so that they will be favorably inclined toward the Kingdom message? Our having a reputation in the community as being morally clean, upright, and honest people brings glory to God. (1 Peter 2:12) However, we can never compromise Bible principles to win the favor of others; neither can we put on a false front to impress them. We must recognize that it is impossible to please everyone. Jesus said: “If you were part of the world, the world would be fond of what is its own. Now because you are no part of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, on this account the world hates you.” (John 15:19) Can we do anything to gain the respect of those who oppose us?
Gaining the Respect of Opposers
“You will be objects of hatred by all people on account of my name,” warned Jesus, “but he that has endured to the end is the one that will be saved.” (Matthew 10:22) This hatred sometimes brings forth vicious accusations. Biased government officials may label us as “seditious” or “subversive.” Outspoken opposers may allege that we are a troublesome sect that must be suppressed. (Acts 28:22) These false accusations can sometimes be counteracted. How? By following the apostle Peter’s counsel: “[Be] ready to make a defense before everyone that demands of you a reason for the hope in you, but doing so together with a mild temper and deep respect.” (1 Peter 3:15) Moreover, we should use “wholesome speech which cannot be condemned; so that the man on the opposing side may get ashamed, having nothing vile to say about us.”—Titus 2:8.
While we try to clear our name of reproach, we need not be discouraged or overwhelmed when we are unfairly maligned. Jesus, the perfect Son of God, was accused of blasphemy, sedition, and even spiritism. (Matthew 9:3; Mark 3:22; John 19:12) The apostle Paul was defamed. (1 Corinthians 4:13) Both Jesus and Paul ignored such criticism and kept busy in their work. (Matthew 15:14) They knew that they could never win the approval of their enemies, since “the whole world is lying in the power of the wicked one.” (1 John 5:19) Today, we face the same challenge. We do not have to be intimidated when hateful opposers spread lies about us.—Matthew 5:11.
Opinions That Really Count
What people think of us varies a great deal, depending on their motives and what they have heard about us. We are praised and honored by some, reviled and hated by others. As long as we are being guided by Bible principles, however, we have every reason to be happy and at peace.
The apostle Paul wrote: “All Scripture is inspired of God and beneficial for teaching, for reproving, for setting things straight, for disciplining in righteousness, that the man of God may be fully competent, completely equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16, 17) We gain the favor of Jehovah God and of his Son, Jesus Christ, by gratefully accepting God’s Word as our guide in all things. In the end, the opinions that matter the most are those of Jehovah and his Son. What they think of us reflects our true worth. Ultimately, our life depends on their approval.—John 5:27; James 1:12.
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“Praise shames me, for I secretly beg for it.”—INDIAN POET RABINDRANATH TAGORE
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The opinions of our fellow believers matter
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