A while back, I came across the story of a certain middle aged man, who talked in regret about how all his life, specifically from young adulthood, he was always worried about ‘what people would say’. At 18, he graduated high school and wanted to pursue music as a profession. He had this deep passion for music production and deejaying. However, worried that ‘people’ would think he pursued a lame and non-glamorous career, he enrolled for criminal law. At his age and time, university courses such as medicine, law, aviation, engineering et cetera were highly thought of and anyone who pursued them, in his opinion, was highly respected.
Since law was not a passion he had, he felt lost and unmotivated but he tagged along his peers because it was a ‘highly regarded’ course to pursue. After several exam fails and retakes, he finally graduated and got a job. He wasn’t thrilled about it but it earned him enough money to buy a house within the first year. The man could have afforded a cozy and affordable home. Nevertheless, he felt that those who knew him would think lowly of him if he settled for just an above average house. To avoid this, he took a loan and bought a villa, not far from where he was raised. The villa costed way above his budget, and he had to repay huge cash installments every month to clear the loan. He was stressed all the time and worried that if he didn’t manage to repay each month, his villa would be auctioned.
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At the age of 27, the man had progressed impressively well in his criminal law career. He had always promised himself to settle down in marriage after the age of 30, so that he is psychologically, emotionally and financially ready to start and fend for a family. However, he felt as if having owned a villa and a car and doing great as a lawyer, people would think that ‘something was wrong with him’ if he didn’t marry soon. Under this pressure, he proposed to his then girlfriend and got married 3 months after engagement. Sadly, he realized that his wife was not exactly who he thought she was, as she turned out to be verbally and physically abusive. He knew he wasn’t happy but stayed anyway as he was worried ‘what people would think’ if he confronted it and his wife decided to leave.
This man, in his story, explained that even after that, he went through a series of ‘what people will think or say’ in the schools he enrolled his children into, clothes that he wore, meals that he ate, places he visited, et cetera. This anxiety went on and on and he was constantly worried that in everything he did, the opinion of ‘people’ really mattered. It was a miserable life to lead.
After years and years of ‘pleasing people’ this man got a lifechanging wake-up call. He bumped into an old friend and they chatted to catch up while he showed off all his ‘achievements’. The conversation with this friend changed him forever. He realized that everyone was so occupied with the highs and lows of their own lives, and hardly noticed the decisions that he self-consciously made everyday. While he was worried about ‘what people would say’, ‘people’ were busy leading happy lives without the constant pleasure of seeking external validation. He had been beating himself so hard while neglecting his dreams and desires to please ‘people’ that didn’t even exist.
Do not get me wrong. I am not in support of sinning or hurting others recklessly because you don’t care ‘what they think’. But I am in full support of leading a righteous life that pleases God and that is aligned to your purpose in Him. Doing things that hurt you or make you unnecessarily compromise in just because you’re so worried about what people will say is a baggage that no one deserves to carry. As a matter of fact, most people are very busy finding their purpose in Christ and working toward a better life for themselves and their loved ones. I am not asking you to be unsociable and dismissive, but if something you want to makes God happy and is genuinely what your hearts tells you to do, go for it. Because, bluntly put, who cares?