Elaborating a bit on the theme of the fear of others…
There is a difference between conviction and condemnation. I’ve heard it preached on a bazillion times, and I expect you have as well. But how do you know the difference, especially if you’re soft-hearted?
When you’re under conviction, you can feel the Holy Spirit shine a spotlight on the bit of your life that wants changing. In my experience, the times I’ve been convicted about something (there have been plenty) it hasn’t been a gradual experience. It’s been a “Oh. THAT. You want me to fix that? Ugh.” (Is it ever a pleasant or easy experience?) It hasn’t been about fitting in with the clique, or doing what Betsie is doing. It’s about something, very personal, in my life, that needs fixing. Usually it’s something in my heart that needs fixing, far more than in my external reality.
Earlier in my walk, sometimes it was blatant sin. There wasn’t really a big “what if” about “should I be doing X” when I knew perfectly well I shouldn’t be, and God was just going to wait me out and stare me down until I obeyed Him. Now it’s more likely to be a word or a wall… just something I walk up to and say, “Huh. One of these things is not like the other. This thing here… this thing doesn’t glorify God. It’s getting in my way. It’s getting in God’s way. It needs to go.” And being human, usually I fuddle around with it a while, but … yeah, it needs to go, so it’s got to go.
Conviction tends to be private. Sometimes you listen to a sermon or read a book, or hit a verse in your Bible that shines that Light… sometimes it *is* a friend or a church member who shines the Light and passes the Word. But it’s straight to the heart.
Now, condemnation tends to be outside. “I don’t fit in”. “She’s doing it this way, and I want to be like her”. “All the good girls….” “If I was X I would be Y”. (Note that conviction doesn’t promise you that you’ll be “good” after you get it out of the way – it just tells you that whatever it is must go.) “I’m a bad person because I paint my nose blue”.
It’s not like peer pressure is a bad thing. I’ve had one of the best years of my life spiritually speaking because I’ve fallen in with a good crowd of ladies online. BUT. You can let it go to a bad place. You can start fearing your friends instead of letting yourself be drawn towards God by their good examples. The only one we should fear is God. If you’re afraid of looking bad in front of your friends, you’ve got not only fear-of-man to confess, you’ve got pride as well!
It’s not a resolution, because if you’ve been reading this blog from the beginning, you’ll know that I hit on “radical honesty” about the same time I started writing it. I’ve been working on transparency ever since. Being polite, being nice – they smooth things down in the short term and in the long term you find that all the little rocks you smoothed away have formed a great big wall!
I’m a reformed “nice girl” and it is tremendously difficult to just say what I’m thinking. But the habit I’m forming is useful in every area of life. “My brain wants chocolate – but you know, actually I’m not all that hungry.” “I want to get some fresh air and sunshine. Well. Why the heck not?” It’s not like I wander around with horrible nasty desires that have to be beaten down – and when I do, the desire to bring glory to God comes first, so it’s not a problem. “I want to tell that girl off soooo bad. But I don’t want to make God look bad. I think now would be a good time to pray”.
Surely I am not the only one whose habitual self is much smaller, much quieter, much less vibrant than the self in the heart – and the self in the heart is more joyful, more prayerful, wiser, and more fun than the woman you see.
Why play it safe? Conviction isn’t *safe*, it’s hard and dangerous and scary. Condemnation? Making that condemning voice inside happy is always “safe” and invariably boring. I don’t think our Christian life is supposed to be “safe”, I think it’s supposed to be bright and salty. Conviction makes us more like Christ – condemnation makes us more like other people.