Given our culture’s extreme value placed on individualism, there is no surprise at all that this is such a prevalent idea.
But we should care what people think. What’s more, if you are a Christian, you should absolutely care what people think.
Most often we use this phrase in order to excuse some sort of behavior. Whether it’s how we dress, how we act, how we parent, etc. And sometimes it is legitimate. For example, if you budget your finances well, and a friend (who is in debt and has no savings) makes fun of you for being “too tight” with your money, well then yes, you really shouldn’t care at all what they think. But this is not how we most often use this phrase.
Most often, we use this phrase as an excuse to live how we want to live because we feel like no one should be allowed to judge us. And in this vein, not caring what people think is a terrible idea. Why?
Because how people think of you affects almost every major aspect of your life.
It affects potential job opportunities; what does your interviewer think of you? It affects the people who do or do not want to be your friends; do they like you? It affects your finances: mortgages, interests rates, loans, etc., are all a reflection of how financial institutions think of your credit. It affects whether or not you get a promotion. It affects whether a college will accept you.
What people think of you is actually very important.
Now this post is not an advice column, but we need to see that yes, you should care what people think because what people think of you determines many opportunities you may or may not receive.
That being said, followers of Christ should, in the appropriate sense, care what people think.
A few months back I wrote a post entitled How Not to Care What People Think. It was about how Christians should not care about what people think in the sense of having everyone’s approval. So let me clarify. Believers are not to care what people think in the sense that they are trying to gain the approval of everybody. The Gospel is offensive and Jesus was offensive (they did crucify him after all). So if people think poorly of you because of your beliefs, that is out of your control.
However, that does not gives us license to treat people however we want under the guise of “well I’m a Christian and Jesus said the “world” would hate me.” If people think poorly of you because you treat them poorly, that should matter to you. If you’re a jerk, and people think you’re a jerk, Jesus has nothing to do with that. Stop being a jerk.
In Titus 2:7-8 Paul writes,
Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us.
If people think you are “narrow minded” because you believe Jesus is who he says is and is the only hope of salvation for all, so be it. If people think you are narrow minded because you treat everyone you disagree with negatively, that should bother you.
So yes, when it comes to how people think about your character and everything that entails, you should care what people think. It must matter to you. So when people speak poorly of you, those that know you well (and this should include non-Christians as well) will know that you are in fact a person being falsely represented.