Why do we fear others’ disapproval so much? We all experience this fear, and most of us don’t want to admit how serious its tyranny can be. The Bible calls this the “fear of man”, and it can weave a web of ambiguity around issues that are biblically clear. The fear of man can immobilize us when we should take action, and gag us into silence when we should speak. It feels powerful, but its power is deceptive.
That’s why the Bible tells us, “The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD is safe” (Proverbs 29:25). The Hebrew word here for “snare” refers to traps hunters used to catch animals or birds. Snares are dangerous. If we get caught, we must do whatever it takes to free ourselves. God has the power to free us and he wants us living in the safe freedom of trusting him. But he frees us not by removing our fear of disapproval, but transferring it to the right place. And typically, he frees us by helping us face our false fears so that they lose their power over us.
God’s Design in the Fear of Disapproval
It’s important we understand why our desire for approval and fear of disapproval is so strong.
Due to our sin, weaknesses, and perhaps traumatic past experiences, we might assume these things are merely consequences of the fall. But at the core, they’re not. God actually designed us to be motivated by these emotionally powerful forces, for they uniquely reveal what we love.
Each of us instinctively knows, as creatures, that who we are and what we’re worth are not things we define for ourselves. We didn’t create ourselves. We didn’t choose our DNA, intellectual and physical powers, families, cultures, early education, time periods, or most other major influences. We are not autonomous but contingent creatures.