Do You Fear Man Too Much and God Too Little Part 1

If Everyone Else Jumped Off a Cliff . . .

Do you fear man too much and God too little? Part 1 of 4

by Barry Pendley

There was a test conducted by a university where 10 students were placed in a room. Three lines of varying length were drawn on a card. The students were told to raise their hands when the instructor pointed to the longest line. But 9 of the students had been instructed beforehand to raise their hands when the instructor pointed to the second longest line. One student was the stooge. The usual reaction of the stooge was to put his hand up, look around, and realizing he was all alone, pull it back down. This happened 75% of the time, with students from grade school through high school. The researchers concluded that many would rather be popular than be right.

We all, to one degree or another, long to be accepted, loved, and esteemed by others. However, this longing often supplants biblical thinking, which in turn, leads to disobedience. Society calls this “peer pressure;” God calls it a “fear of man.”

What is the difference between peer pressure and a fear of man? Peer pressure and the “fear of man” are not synonymous. Peer pressure has a good side. It can be that which causes you to do what is right. For instance, a godly friend may encourage you toward Christlikeness.

As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another (Pr 27:17).

Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up (Ecc 4:9–10).

Therefore, peer pressure has a good side. Yet, peer pressure has a dark side. It is a “fear of man” which leads one to ungodly behavior. Throughout this series of articles, we will focus on this side of peer pressure and refer to it as God does – the “fear of man.”

Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD is kept safe (Pr 29.25).

Everyone has a “fear of man.” As one writer puts it, “if one denies that he has a ‘fear of man’ you had better check his pulse.” Before you reject this premise, consider the following questions:

  • Are you a teen who keeps his room locked and does not want his parents to come in – Do you have a fear of what they will find?
  • Have you ever abandoned verbalizing a good thought for fear that others may think you are unintelligent?
  • Have you ever failed to stand for truth because you knew the overwhelming (or maybe a simple) majority went against you?
  • Do you seek the attention of others?
  • Do you ask others for their comments knowing that they will applaud you for something you did?
  • Have you ever done something moronic so as to attract the attention of others?
  • Do you ever exaggerate about your experiences?
  • Have you ever lied, fearing that someone would know the truth?

Would you have been among the 75% of students in the illustration at the beginning of this article?

If you answered “yes” to any of the above, I rest my case. The “fear of man” permeates society to such a degree that it is no secret. Interestingly enough, many psychologists have “discovered” this problem, labeling people who succumb to a “fear of man” as those who have “low self-esteem,” are “co-dependent,” or have “histrionic personality disorder.” Some, labeled “agoraphobics,” are so fearful of people that they will not go to a mall, store, or in some cases, never leave their homes.

As you can see, psychologists have not uncovered a new problem, they merely gave an old problem a new name. Not only has psychology given the “fear of man” a new label, it posits new techniques to rid people of “low self-esteem” and a variety of other mental problems. This article will expose certain myths associated with a “fear of man.”

Myth 1: “Ignore the pressure and it will go away!”

Should you ignore the pressure hoping it will go away? This seems to be the sentiment of the world’s counsel. They say things like:

“If you have a problem, avoid it, pretend it doesn’t exist.

“If it is in your power, do away with those things (people) that bring your pressure.”

According to a Christian psychologist, Clyde Narramore, the way to handle peer pressure is to get rid of the pressure altogether. In his book, How to Handle Pressure, he illustrates his point by describing the “no grade” system.

Shortly after graduating from college, I taught in an elementary school which experimented with a number of innovative ideas. One of these was the issuing of report cards without precise grades.

The principle, herself, was a relaxed, thoughtful person. She wanted each child to do his best without undue pressure from competition. Teaching in this school was a rewarding experience for me. Each month when the report cards were issued, teachers wrote a brief description of the child’s activities and progress. But no grades were assigned. Frankly, I felt a little uncomfortable at first, not giving “A’s” and “C’s” or “1s” or “4s” or something in between. But as time went on I saw many advantages in this procedure. I soon learned, too, that the kids liked it very much. Some of the children who had grown up in that school had never received a “mark” and they didn’t know the difference between an “A” and a “D.” But they were happy, and relaxed, and they did excellent work.

What are the problems with this view? Narramore’s popular concept is more fantasy than reality for at least two reasons

It is impossible to get rid of pressure. We will always have a “fear of man.” The problem is not fearing man, but succumbing to it.

Getting rid of the pressure should not be one’s focus. What should be the Christian focus? A Christian can effectively battle against peer pressure (fear of man) by developing a fear of the Lord.

Myth 2: “You need other people for selfish reasons!”

The world doesn’t like to put it so bluntly, but this is exactly what it teaches. You will find this teaching floating in pop songs like “People Who Need People” and the pop psych literature.

The basic personal need of each personal being is to regard himself as a worthwhile human being . . . . In order to do so, we must not only be significant but also be secure in the unconditional love of another person. Larry Crabb in Basic Principles of Biblical Counseling, pp 53, 63

If the need for love is not met in a person’s life, he may develop attitudes and tendencies . . . that will shape his whole life in a distorted pattern. Clyde Narramore in This Way to Happiness, p 16.

If I could write a prescription for the women of the world, I would provide each one of them with a healthy dose of self-esteem and personal worth . . . . I have no doubt that this is their greatest need. James Dobson in What Wives Wish Their Husbands Knew About Women, p 35.

Psychologists use the “empty love cup” to illustrate this teaching. They believe that man has an internal void that needs to be filled with love, acceptance, affirmation, and recognition. According to the world, man is empty if he does not have these things. You may have heard this philosophy in the following statements:

I need to be affirmed by my friends.

I need acceptance.

If you haven’t noticed these statements, listen for them. They are commonly used on Christian radio, self-help books, and in the conversations of many Christians. What are the problems with this view?

According to psychology, one of your greatest problems is a lack of love. The Bible teaches differently. Man’s greatest problem is sin.

According to psychology, your focus must be to receive love (affirmation) from others. The Bible teaches that your focus must be to show love to God and others, not get love from others.

What is the result of this teaching? This view actually causes and promotes a “fear of man.” According to these teachers, you must focus on receiving love and affirmation from others. If you don’t receive this affirmation, then you are lacking. Your friends, then, become a selfish means to this acceptance. So, if your life focus is to serve yourself, you will be pressured to be accepted by your peers! You will do whatever you can to receive acceptance, affirmation, and love from your peers. If that isn’t a “fear of man” what is?

Myth 3: “Cast aside all guilty feelings!”

This may be the most prominent way the world has replaced a fear of God with the fear of man. Psychologists no longer talk of guilt in a biblical sense. They have taken a biblical word and stripped it of all meaning. Psychology redefines “guilt” in such a way that it is now considered a mere feeling. Today, people talk not of guilt, but of “guilt feelings.” They say things like:

“Don’t feel guilty, you need to feel good about yourself!”

“Don’t feel guilty, ignore those feelings! They don’t exist! They are a product of your imagination!”

“Don’t feel guilty, do what you want to do!”

“Don’t feel guilty, stay busy!”

What are the problems with this view?

Guilt is not a feeling, it is a legal fact. Psychology has confused the fact of guilt with the feelings of shame. Guilt is not a feeling, shame is a feeling. Guilt may or may not be followed by shame. For instance, have you ever run a stop sign without realizing it? You don’t feel shamed because you were not aware of your transgression. Yet, if you were pulled over by a police officer, he would consider you guilty. Consider how ridiculous you would sound explaining your innocence to a police officer:

Sir, you know I can’t be given a ticket for running that stop sign back there. I had no guilt feelings. Also, guilt is so bad, that I have cast aside all guilt feelings.

The Bible records an instance where the spiritual leaders in Jerusalem were so full of greed that they were thieves. Though the priests were guilty of thievery, they had no feelings of shame. Notice how the Bible emphasizes the point:

Are they ashamed of their loathsome conduct? No, they have no shame at all; they do not even know how to blush. So they will fall among the fallen; they will be brought down when I punish them,” says the LORD. (Jer 6.15 repeated in 8.12)

Were these people guilty of sin? Yes. Did they feel the impact of their guilt? No. They were not at all ashamed; they didn’t even know how to blush.

Guilt is only cast away by obedient living. One cannot play mind games by “casting aside feelings.” The only way one can gain a “guilt-free conscience” is by living obediently. Since one becomes guilty by sinful living, one also maintains innocency by living obediently. Notice how David dealt with his guilt before God:

Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. (Ps 51.1–2)

Conclusion The “fear of man” is ripping apart the moral fabric of our society. It is found among all people, children through adults. It rears its ugly head in many different ways. Psychologists proffer their counsel, but they have had more success in identifying it than eradicating it. Therefore, one must give full attention to the Scriptures and consider how to do battle with the “fear of man.”

Think what would have happened during the Revolutionary war if the soldiers fell prey to a “fear of man.” Imagine if Wycliffe and the translators of Scripture succumbed to a “fear of man;” we would not have God’s Word in the English language. Consider what example you would leave your children if you allowed a “fear of man” to dominate your life. Imagine standing before God, your sovereign Creator, and saying to Him, “I feared man more than you.”

Consider the words of John Flavel, a nonconformist who lived in the 1600s:

The unsaved man fears man and not God; the strong Christian fears God and not man; the weak Christian fears man too much and God too little.

This four-part series was developed shortly after the author read the book, When People are Big and God is Small.


  1. Greetings!

    I am interested in this lesson, and this is part 1, can i ask for a copy on part 2 to part 4?

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