I am definitely guilty at times…
And when I do, I find myself in a prison I have locked myself in.
I feel most people have locked themselves in this prison at least once. It’s the kind where after every interaction with someone thoughts will flood the mind and sound like this:
"Did they understand what I said?" "I wonder what they really think." "Should I have said that differently?" "Did I hurt their feelings?" "Do they secretly not like me? "Are they going to gossip behind my back?" "Are they judging me for that?" "Can I really trust them?"
It’s the kind of prison that heightens anxiety, feeds your shame, and isolates your true self from the world.
It is dangerous to stay locked in there for long.
But you see, as someone who holds herself to a standard of living like Jesus in a place where Jesus’s character would seem foolish and wrong, it’s easy to fall into the prison of what others might think of me.
When I don’t live up to the standard of Jesus’s all loving character and setting an example for those around me, I worry that others won’t think of me as Christlike. When I do live up to Jesus’s all loving character, people around me might judge it or misunderstand it. There is no winning here.
I have to remind myself:
Jesus didn’t die on the cross and set you free from sin, only for you to lock yourself up in a prison you yourself created.
Actually, what I have noticed is, every new born Christian has a prison they put themselves in from time to time. Whether its the prison of achieving, the prison of comparison, the prison of anxiety, the prison of unbelief, the prison of validation through relationships, the prison of past hurt, the prison of low self-worth, the prison of unhealthy habits, the prison of pride….. the list goes on.
But this is not because our faith is weak or because we are not doing it right… it is because we are still affected by the fall- the human condition… That is why God sent his “Helper” when Jesus ascended into heaven.
So how should we break free from the prison’s we put ourselves in?
We call on the helper.
Now notice how the bible calls him the “Helper” not the “Solver.”
“I will send you the Helper from the Father. The Helper is the Spirit of truth who comes from the Father.” John 15:26
I think many of us sometimes call on the helper expecting him to be a solver. Rather, his purpose is to help you see truth, but it’s up to you to believe it. In other words, he will give you the key to unlock the prison door, but it’s up to you to put it into the lock, unlock it, and walk out.
When I care to much about what other people think of me, or what other people might be saying about me…
The helper will remind me of these truths:
“It is dangerous to be concerned with what others think of you, but if you trust the Lord, you are safe.” Proverbs 29:25
“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Romans 12:2
“Am I saying this now to win the approval of people or God? Am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be Christ’s servant.” Galatians 1:10
“It is better to take refuge in the LORD Than to trust in man.” Psalm 118:8
But of course, this doesn’t mean we should go balls to the wall and not care at all what people think, God did call us to be wise about it:
“Be very careful, then, how you live–not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.” Ephesians 5:15-16
“Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.” 2 Timothy 2:15
“For we are taking great care to do what is right, not only in the eyes of the Lord, but also in the eyes of men.” 2 Corinthians 8:21
It comes down to the heart. We should care what others think about us (to a degree), but not to please people. Instead we should care what they think about us in a way that pleases God, because what people think of us is representative of what they think of God.
It’s a balance between honoring God through the way we live, with the right heart, and being wise in how we do it, as to not stir up conflict or cause people to feel hurt or offended.
I posted awhile back about how where I work is one big balancing act, and this is definitely one of those things I am learning to balance. If you’d like to read that post you can find it here: https://prisonlyfe.blog/2019/01/24/the-art-of-balance/
In conclusion, if you ever find yourself in your own prison of whatever it may be, let the spirit of truth help you and give you the key. Then take that key, unlock the door, and get the crap out of there.