"How can ye believe, which receive honour one of another, and seek not the honour that cometh from God only?" (Joh 5:44)
You know about peer pressure, and belonging to the right group, and being a productive member of society, and, etc. All those things are common to our experience in this world.
I have to ponder those things, however, and always want to know why. Why is that people go for that stuff? I think partly it's practical. Ten men can lift something that one man alone cannot. A group of people with diverse talents can combine them to do what none of them could accomplish otherwise. That's not so bad, I suppose.
But I think there is more than the practical thing going on. Why is it a woman always asks, "Do I look fat in this dress?" I mean, after all, why not just look in the mirror? And why is it the guys have to brag to each other about what they did last night? It seems we are always seeking the approval of others. That goes beyond practical needs of working together. It indicates some psychological need, I think.
I think it's a need of "identity" that causes these things. An insecurity about our self image can be allayed somewhat if we get others to reflect back a good image. So, we seek the approval, the opinion, of others in order to find out who and what we are. It's the self seeking definition and security of its identity through the reflection of others, in other words. And, to get that security, there is a tendency to go along to get along. I'll stroke your ego if you stroke mine. I'll tell you who good you look if you tell me I'm a kind considerate person.
So, just be yourself, right? Except, if you define yourself by what others think, the only way to know who you are and to feel good about who you are is to get their approval. Then it goes beyond seeking identity to the point of changing our behavior, doing things we might not otherwise do, just to fit in with the group that defines our identity. You lose your unique identity in the process of trying to define that identity. Yikes.
It's all down hill from there, because soon enough, any criticism will be seen as a personal attack on who you are. And, worse, people feel the need to get others to agree, even if it means killing them, just so that precious, insecure little self-image is not disrupted. Then it's, "How DARE you say that to me, you bleep-bleep-bleep! I'll teach you a thing or two."
An obsessive need to criticize and correct others is pretty much the same thing, don't you think? The thought pattern becomes that someone not like me, or doing something I don't approve of, is possibly a danger, and probably thinks badly of me. The carnal mind thinks, "If you're not like me I don't approve of you and you probably don't approve of me." So get them to change or destroy them so we can feel OK about ourselves. It gets to the ridiculous point where man says, "My criticism of you is good for you, but your criticism of me is a personal attack." Yeah, right.
Ah, so we say, just don't worry about what others think. That's fine if you know who and what you are, are confident in it, and can simply speak your mind. Except - the conformed will call you arrogant (and you may very well be). They say, "Who are you to think that you don't need the opinions of others?" Or, "Who are you to be so self-assured that you ignore my criticism?" It's that "reflection" thing again. The conformed feel that security is in conformity, and anyone who doesn't think the way they do is a threat.
Arrogance is simply unwarranted pride and a false sense of importance, and often the rank individualist really is arrogant. (It's a form of insecurity.) He doesn't care for the opinions of others for the same reason others are dependent on the opinion of others. I know, that's confusing, but think about it for a bit. The conformed can't stand the disruption of his self-image due to the criticism of others and solves the problem by conforming. The individualist can't stand the disruption of his self-image due to criticism of others, so he convinces himself the others have nothing important to say.
Can't go left. Can't go right. Stuck in the middle again.
I'll tell you a thing or two, if you'd like. This is another false dilemma of the carnal mind. It's not one or the other and there is another way.
Suppose your self-image is based not on what man thinks of you, or on what you think of yourself, but rather on what God thinks of you? When God says He loves you, that's enough. There is no need to worry about what others think. And there is no need to get others to conform to your way of thinking, either. If God approves of you the way you are, then I can accept you as you are. If God approves of me the way I am, then you can accept me as I am. Each of us can ask God what we need to change, work on, and improve.
Out of this comes both humility and love. It's not arrogant to say I don't need other people's opinions. I can say what I need to say, and you can say what you need to say. It is a humble recognition that I can just be what God made me, and you can be what God made you, and we will get along just fine. I trust that God knows what He is doing.
You may be unapproved by the world, but if you trust Him, you are approved of God. What more do you need than that?
"From henceforth let no man trouble me: for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus." (Gal 6:17)