Edward T. Welch, M.Div., Ph.D., is a licensed psychologist and faculty member at the Christian Counseling & Educational Foundation (CCEF). He has counseled for over twenty-five years and is the best-selling author of some of the best, gospel-centric counceling books, including When People Are Big and God Is Small; Addictions: A Banquet in the Grave; Running Scared: Fear, Worry and the God of Rest; and When I Am Afraid: A Step-by-Step Guide Away from Fear and Anxiety.
His latest book is What Do You Think of Me and Why Do I Care?, Today, Ed was kind enough to stop by and chat for today’s Friday Five.
What are some questions we can ask ourselves to determine if we are being too controlled by the opinions of others?
The list is a long one here. Am I angry? hopeless? self-protective? afraid? ashamed? depressed? withdrawing? Do I lie to make myself look better? Do I try to attach myself to the celebrity or popular person with the hope of enhancing my own reputation?
Can you explain the term “peer pressure” and what it really means?
I don’t hear this word as much as I once did. It usually means that we are willing to do things we wouldn’t normally do as a way to be accepted by others. There is a good kind of peer pressure, when a youth group really wants to know Jesus better, but that’s not the way it usually happens. We have a lot of the Old Testament biographies in us, and in those cases when a person who belonged to God met a person who loved his or her idols, the follower of God started following the idols and not vice versa. Of course, in the age of the Spirit that can be different.
You say that so much of life comes down to three questions. Can you tell us what they are and how we can find the answers to them?
The questions are Who is God? Who am I? and Who are you? The answers can be a little difficult to discover. Most of us know the correct theological answers to these questions, but there are the correct ones and then there are the ones we really believe. That why the topic of the opinions of other people is so handy. It can surprise us with our REAL answers to those questions.
So what are some of the real answers?
Who is God? Picky, distant, nice but irrelevant.
Who am I? Needy, I must find an identity in myself – who I am and what I do? The problem is that God isn’t very relevant and other people don’t solve the problem because I am a never ending hole that is looking to others so I can feel okay about myself.
Who are you? A threat, a god.
If we use these three basic questions, the question about God tends to be irrelevant, which is at the very heart of the problem. The normal answer is, he loves me [but so what?].
Why doesn’t his love make that much difference? It’s because other people have become our substitute god. The only way that God’s love becomes relevant is for “Why do I care?” to become a confession, as in “Lord, why do I care so much about me and my desires?” That takes an ordinary desire [for approval, love, acceptance, belonging . . . ] that has grown to extraordinary proportions so that it is a ruling or even idolatrous desire, and it brings that desire back to being an ordinary one in which other people’s poor opinions can hurt us, but not control us.
And who are other people? We want to love them just a little more than be loved by them.
You write a lot in your book about worship. Tell us why this is such an important theme and how it applies to the issue of people pleasing.
Worship seems like a once-a-Sunday thing, but Scripture puts life in either/or terms: either we love God or something else, we trust in God or something else, we bow down to God or something else. Bowing down or worshipping is a vivid and accurate way to describe what is always taking place in our hearts. The word control gets at it. What controls us is our god. What controls us is what we adore and worship.
How can recognizing everyone in our lives—acquaintances, loved ones, friends and enemies—as FAMILY change our perspectives and the way we live with and think about others?
We can have wretched families that are more like enemies than families, but most of us are familiar with relationships in which we love people freely. We don’t have to put on airs, we are always wondering what they are thinking about us. Instead, we simply love and enjoy them. When we are interested, we are more interested in them than we are in what they think of us. That recognizable experience moves us toward a way out from this particular human struggle. At the end of the day, love God and love your neighbor is where we will find lots of answers.