Fear of Man Around the Holidays

Last week, I interpreted for a jury trial out of state. As I stood next to the witness stand, dutifully interpreting every sentence the prosecuting and defense attorneys asked of the witness, in the back of my mind I was worrying what the members of the jury were thinking of me. Did they think my skirt was goofy? Were my bangs uneven? Could they tell I have an accent in Bulgarian?

As you can see, insecurity (what the Bible calls "fear of man") takes many forms. Even though I haven't struggled with food addiction or drowning my feelings in alcohol in seven years, like all people, I still have to guard against this sin daily.

This is a difficult season for anorexics and bulimics for many reasons, not the least of which is worrying about "what other people think". This year, I counseled a young lady well on her way to overcoming anorexia and bulimia who struggled with the fact that her own immediate family members "watch" her when she eats dinner. In the case of someone still in the throes of an eating disorder, multiply that anxiety about tenfold! Unfortunately, the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays do tend to create as much stress and anxiety as they do joy, peace and goodwill for anorexics and bulimics. Part of this comes from the "food-centric" way we celebrate; another reason arises from tense interpersonal relationships with family members.

Broadly speaking, unresolved anger, bitterness, hurt, and unforgiveness will contribute to someone continuing on in addictive patterns. If I am holding a grudge against my mother, and I must see her socially for several hours, it will be more difficult to refrain from my old crutch: stuffing my angry, distrustful feelings with food - and then vomiting those spiteful feelings away. Sometimes family can stir up negative memories and emotions we would rather leave behind us.

Another way insecurity rears its ugly head is worrying about our appearance - specifically, about our weight. As we surrender this idol to God and we learn to eat in a God-glorifying way, we gain weight. It's healthy, necessary, and inevitable. However, we often are tempted to take our eyes off of what our Heavenly Father thinks, and obsess about the attention we believe our weight is drawing from others (although positive). I remember when I was first acheiving a healthy weight, feeling embarrassed and even a bit violated when relatives would comment on how "good I looked since I'd gained weight".

It is bound to happen, but if you are in Christ, He has promised "never to leave [you] nor forsake [you]". (Hebrews 13:5). The antidote to fear of man is not to focus on own assets or attributes; it is to cultivate a heart of thanksgiving to the Father. Regularly praise Him for Who He is, and what He has done in your life.

Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)

When we get caught up in this all-too-human tendency to obsess over other people's opinions, compare ourselves with others, or become so concerned with how others view us, we need to remember the message of the Gospel and how to apply it. The Gospel is the Person and work of Christ; all that Jesus was, is, and shall ever be; all He has done and will do. This is important to get straight in our minds, because many Christians tend to see the Gospel as only having application for salvation. Until you are rightly affected by the Gospel in your day-to-day life, you will not be rightly motivated to live for the Lord Jesus Christ.
He has promised us His eternal friendship (John 15:15) and an Advocate with the Father (John 14:16;26). Repeatedly in the Gospels He exhorts us to live for an audience of One: God Himself (Luke 12:4-6). Stop dwelling on what others can do to you (or think of you), and imerse yourself in the Truth of His Word. He will dwell in your heart through faith this holiday season, (Eph. 3:17) and fill you with His peace and joy if you allow Him to. Pray your way through all stressful family situations, and remember that He had them too (John 7:3-9) and understands the pain.

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