In the book of Proverbs God gives His people a collection of wise sayings on living life skillfully. One of those sayings contrasts trusting the Lord with fearing other people.
The fear of mankind is a snare but the one who trusts the Lord is protected (Proverbs 29:25).
We are commanded to fear the Lord. In fact, throughout the book of Proverbs we are told that wisdom comes from fearing the Lord, from walking in awe of His character and deeds. But we are also commanded to not fear mankind. We cannot fear God and fear other people at the same time.
Fear of mankind is a snare. It causes us to stumble in our steps, paralyzes us, and hampers our effectiveness. How does fear of mankind manifest itself in a leader’s life? Here are seven indicators a leader is caught in the snare of fear.
1. Hesitancy to offer accountability
If a leaders needs to be approved, the leader is being ruled by fear of others, and won’t bring needed accountability. Leaders who need to be loved by those they lead struggle to offer accountability and correction to those who need it.
2. Too many goals
The trouble with too many goals is that it is highly unlikely they will be achieved. The attraction, though, of many goals is that many goals can actually lower expectations. A few goals raise the pressure and the expectation for those goals to be achieved because those goals are visible to everyone. So leaders who walk in fear will often chose, even without realizing their motivation, many goals to spread the expectations across lots of different things.
3. Small goals
Small goals can be leaders hedging their bets out of fear. Fearful leaders can’t stand the idea of a goal not being met so they set small goals, if they set goals at all.
Fear of making a decision that people question or that upsets people can paralyze leaders from making important decisions. Ironically, not making a decision is often the worst decision a leader can make.
5. Risk aversion
Risks don’t need to be reckless. They can be informed by instinct, experience, and the wisdom of others. But a risk is still a risk and may not work, which means possible failure. Leaders who are allergic to risk are likely also allergic to disappointing others or being criticized by others.
6. Intolerance of failure
A leader who creates a culture that doesn’t tolerate failure is a leader who creates a culture that doesn’t tolerate innovation. Fear of failing in front of others is a snare that stops leaders from trying new things.
7. Approval junkie
A leader who needs approval from others needs approval from them because he or she ultimately fears them. Fearing God liberates us from fearing mankind and needing their approval. In Christ we are already approved. Because of Christ in us we are approved by His work on the cross and not our work.
Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. Fear of mankind is a snare.