You never know when I might play a wild card on you!
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 many books, including When People Are Big and God Is Small; Addictions: A Banquet in the Grave; Blame It on the Brain?; Depression: A Stubborn Darkness; Crossroads: A Step-by-Step Guide Away from Addiction; Running Scared: Fear, Worry and the God of Rest; and When I Am Afraid: A Step-by-Step Guide Away from Fear and Anxiety. He and his wife Sheri have two daughters, two sons-in-law and four grandchildren.
Visit the author's website.
In his latest release, author Edward T. Welch offers a way of escape for young adults held captive by the opinions of others. In an increasingly unstable culture, being obsessed with what others think is an escalating struggle among teens and young adults, leading to more serious consequences than ever before. Although everyone—whether they’re sixteen or sixty—works hard to win someone’s approval or ward off someone’s rejection, these issues plague teenagers and young adults with particular intensity. And how teens and young adults answer the big questions of their lives now will affect the direction of their adult lives for better or worse. In his new book, What Do You Think of Me? Why Do I Care?: Answers to the Big Questions of Life (New Growth Press, October 2011), Edward T. Welch extends hope to those weary of hiding behind a mask of performance in order to gain love and acceptance.
Peer pressure, codependency, shame, low self-esteem—these are just some of the words used to identify how young people can be controlled by the perceived opinions of others. Stand out in the right way to the right people, and you’re on top of the world. But experience failure in front of those same people and prepare for a sinking sensation in your stomach and a night of tossing and turning.
Why do you care? Why do we all care? These are questions that can’t be answered without listening to God, the One who made us and knows us better than we know ourselves. In What Do You Think of Me? Why Do I Care? Welch takes the big questions of life and shows that freedom from what people think of us comes as we learn who God is and who we are in relationship to Him. Only then will we be able to let go of our masks, stop trying to fill our leaky love cups and begin to live for something bigger than ourselves.
An interactive book, What Do You Think of Me? Why Do I Care? includes questions throughout the text for individual or group study and is especially aimed at teenagers and young adults. A corresponding website rich with controversy and dialogue, My-Big-Life-Question.com, will also offer readers a place to discuss personal needs as well as to find other resources for life’s journey and places to go for help.
“I want to draw people to the path of becoming truly human, where you are controlled by God more than other people and where you love others more than you need them to love you,” says Welch. “The result? Genuine loving relationships and the ability to make a lasting impact on the world around us. It’s a hard process, but it’s wonderful and the results are worth it.”
List Price: $12.99
Paperback: 160 pages
Publisher: New Growth Press (October 1, 2011)
MY THOUGHTS AND REVIEW:
If you have been a teenager before/are a teenager now/have a teenager living with you, you know how huge peer pressure is. It's easy to tell teenagers not to care about what others think of them but that advice would likely go in one ear and out the other. This book was written for readers ages 15-25. However, preteens and even older people can benefit from it. While older people may care somewhat less about what others think of them and have face concern about totally different things, they are still affected by the opinions of others. The cure for the fear of man is the fear of God...more accurately, the love of God. Dr. Welch encourages readers to find their acceptance, affirmation, and affection in Christ, not in people. How we view ourselves, God, and others makes a big difference in how we act and react! Dr. Welch uses the Scriptures, Jesus, and examples of some great men in the Bible to guide readers and give answers to important questions in life. If you desire to freely live for God, aiming to please Him instead of men, check this book out.
"True freedom in your relationships comes when the scales are always a little unbalanced: You want the weight to be more on the "love" side than the "be loved" side." (p. 114)
"When God says that we should do everything for His glory (1 Corinthians 10:31), He is saying that our lives are intended to make Him famous, not ourselves...How do you do it? Start by praying. First, that you would know Him and His love. Second, that you would love others in a way that would increase His fame. Then think in terms of small steps of love. Keep in step with what the Spirit is doing." (p. 122)
Great questions at the end of the book: "You are seeking to worship God more than the opinions of others? Do you want to love people even if they don't love you as you would like?" (p. 145) Hopefully, you would answer "yes" :)!
AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:
“Lord, please let me be normal.”
Okay, maybe you never actually prayed that, but you do want it. You want to fit in. Who doesn’t? Imagine you are invited to a formal dinner, but you didn’t read the entire invitation and you go in shorts and flip-flops. (Yes, it wasn’t pretty. I was also wearing a Killer Dana T-shirt—it’s the name of a surf shop, but the other dinner guests thought I was going gangsta.)
We all have these stories. We spend a lot of time concerned about fitting in, which means that we spend a lot of time thinking about our hair, our body, our intelligence, and our clothes so we can be part of the larger group. None of us want to be stared at if it means that the people looking at us don’t like what they see. When they look at us that way we want to run and hide.
Oh, and there is another prayer too. “Lord, please don’t let me be normal.” “If I can’t fit in, then I’ll be a vampire,” and she did just that. She figured that both fitting in and standing out were impossible, so she made a choice. Her parents would have preferred a more traditional route such as starting on the basketball team or high SAT scores. They are hoping it is a phase, which it is—there are not many fifty-year-old vampires. But, unless she discovers something else to run her life, she will always be looking for ways to stand out, and she will be depressed.
We want to stand out from the crowd. We want to be seen, which means that we want people to notice us and be impressed with something. We want them to respect us, to like us, and to love us. Not too many people dream of being average. Take a look at your fantasies, and you will probably find a quest to be noticed.
• Have you ever imagined that you scored the winning basket in the NBA finals?
• Do you enjoy superhero movies because you like to imagine what it would be like to have such powers?
• Do you identify with a celebrity because you would like to live her life, at least for a year or two?
• Have you ever fantasized that you were famous or great?
• Or maybe you have already given up on greatness and will settle for a B+.
It’s complicated, isn’t it? If only we could be less controlled by the opinions of others. Maybe a deserted island could be the answer. That would be a pricey way to avoid the judgments of others, but it might work. Apart from that option, you have a creepy sense that people are watching, judging, evaluating, accepting, or rejecting you. Sometimes the eyes belong to no one in particular. Other times you know exactly who or what group you are trying to please. Either way, you are controlled by other people more than you think, and other people, of course, are controlled by how you see them.
The problem is a common one, but we don’t talk about it too often. As a way to get it out into the open, keep trying to locate this in your own life.
• Do you buy clothes because of what other people will think? Have you ever not gone somewhere because you didn’t have the right clothes or didn’t like the way you looked?
• Do you spend a lot of time in front of the mirror?
• Do you avoid people, either because you are angry with them or because you would be embarrassed if they saw you?
• Do you ever get embarrassed to be seen with your parents?
• Have you ever been embarrassed at the thought of other people knowing that you go to church?
• Have you ever been embarrassed to say you believe in God?
• Have you ever been embarrassed to say you believe in Jesus?
• Do you ever exaggerate to make yourself look better?
• Do you feel like a failure sometimes? Do you hate school because from the moment you walk in you feel like a failure?
• Are you afraid to ask questions in class because you might look stupid?
• Do you wish you were thinner, stronger, taller, shorter, smarter, faster, or better looking?
• Have you ever been jealous of someone thinner, stronger, taller, shorter, smarter, faster, or better looking?
• Have you ever wished you could shrivel up and disappear?
Agreed, these questions are too easy. You might hesitate on one or two of them, but basically the answer is yes across the board, and they are that way for everyone. They all point to how we can be too controlled by the opinions of others. Why do you think everyone struggles with it? Where does it come from?
One of the riskiest things in life is to like someone—really like someone. It all starts innocently. You find yourself attracted to another person. Happens all the time. No big deal. But then the attraction grows, and amid the glow of romantic feelings lurks a monster: what if you like the other person more than the other person likes you? What will he or she think about me? you wonder.
You send some friends out on a reconnaissance mission. Their job is to find out if the other person likes you without that person knowing your intentions. If word comes back yes, you can move toward that person safely. If the answer is no, you lick your wounds, thankful for the heads-up that saved you from total embarrassment. In your every- day life, the potential for rejection is enormous. It’s amazing that so many people actually get out of bed in the morning. Sound familiar?
Success can’t protect you. Steven King, the ridiculously prolific and famous horror writer, was told by Miss Hisler, his school principal, “What I don’t understand, Stevie, is why you write junk like this in the first place.” At the time, he was already writing scary stories that other students were willing to pay to read. “I was ashamed,” he says of the incident. “I have spent a good many years since—too many, I think—being ashamed about what I write.”* You too have probably heard words like Miss Hisler’s, and they are still etched inside your soul. Can you think of some?
Look around a little more and you will see it—it goes by many names: a desire for acceptance, the fear of rejection, painful self- consciousness, or peer pressure. You can see it when you or any of your friends take muscle-enhancing steroids or illegal drugs. You see it in anorexia, bulimia, and depression. You find it in people who are sexually active before or outside of marriage.
• What will they think of me?
• What might they think about me?
• How can I be accepted?
• How can I be loved?
The evidence is everywhere. If you can’t relate to any of this, here is a sure way to find it.
• Do you think you’re especially attractive?
• Are you supercompetitive? Do you hate to lose? (And do you usually win?)
• Would you say you are self-confident?
There it is again: a life that is always judged by others. The only difference is that, at least for the moment, the judges score you highly. Yet it is even more complicated. Deep down those who are super self-confident don’t believe the judges’ high scores. They feel like failures— frauds who are barely fooling other people. Do you think beautiful celebrities struggle with feeling judged and unaccepted by others? Count on it.
Some people seem more self-confident or at least less self-conscious than others. It’s hard to know exactly why, but everyone can easily recall times when they withered under the rejection (or possible rejection) of other people.
I know, I know. You were trying to manage this perfectly common experience by ignoring it, and somebody (me) comes along and makes an issue out of it. But my purpose is not to make you miserable. Stick with it, because this particular problem is actually a window into the mysteries of the universe. It takes you directly to three questions that every human being must answer: Who am I? Who is God? and Who are you? And there is no way I would invite you down this road unless the road was very good.
An interview with the author, Ed Welch
Q: 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?
Q: 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.
Q: 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.
Q: 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.
Q: 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.