“I don’t care what you think.”
That phrase is a reaction many of us are familiar with. We go to war with it. It becomes our battle cry when we feel our enemies are ready to unleash a barrage of negative words.
I’ve been a Fire Fighter and a Paramedic for the last 13 years. The vast majority of that time (I’d say 99%) has been spent on the ambulance as a Paramedic In Charge (PIC). I love it and I’m good at it. God has given me the passion and skills to be able to do this job and it awakened a love for people I didn’t really know was there.
My job used to be my identity. My sense of worth and value rose and fell with my performance and what others thought of it. It took a lot of small and large victories for me to able to find my worth and value in God’s love rather than as a Paramedic.
Over the last several years I’ve felt disconnected from all the destructive ways “paramedic” would tug on my heart. I don’t care about being a paramedic less but the place it used to occupy in my heart has been replaced by the perfect love of God. But there’s been a change within the last six months. I switched stations and into a situation that I would be getting much more time off of the ambulance and on the fire engine.
My responsibilities change dramatically when I’m on the engine. I drive it, operate the pump for fires, use equipment to cut people out of vehicles, and much more. Patient care is only a small part of what I do when I’m on the engine and while spending so many years on the ambulance that feels comforting like a warm blanket, the engine can feel very cold – like a stranger daring you to take one more step. Suddenly the perceived thoughts and opinions of my supervisors and co-workers began to cling to my sense of worth and value and I was struggling to get them off.
There are so many great things about getting uncomfortable. If we never get to that place, we won’t ever move forward. But discomfort brings adversity; it brings the voice of our adversary telling us that we’re less than what we are. It perks up our ears to the thoughts and opinions of our supervisors and co-workers and anyone else who happens to be around. The voice of God affirming our worth and value becomes dull next to the shouts of failure and worthless and no good we’re sure are about to come out of the mouths of those around us.
As we squirm in this place trying to remember that it’s God’s love that defines us, we are tempted to try and disarm the attacks by saying, “I don’t care what they think.” And many of us feel justified by that—that it’s how God wants us to react. But I can’t get there.
We can’t say we love others and in the same breath let them know we don’t care what they think. Committing to love others means committing to ascribing the same value on them that Jesus does. It means that they are worth listening to; that what they think is worth our attention.
Aside from it being completely unloving to dismiss the thoughts of others, it could also be really stupid. We might actually need to hear what others think! The thoughts and opinions of others could keep us safe, help us do our jobs, help us improve in those jobs, and even help us see things in our hearts that need to change.
So I was processing this whole thing with God one morning trying to find the line. How do I care and not let it move my sense of worth and value?
The Lord answered and said, “Care what others think but don’t care how they judge you.”
I was blown away. This allows me to be free to value the thoughts and opinions of others but protects my identity as a beloved child of God. It’s okay for me to let people share their thoughts because their words have no power to change who I am.
I can be happy if my supervisor thinks I’m doing a great job on the engine but it doesn’t have any power to affect my worth and value. I can be sad/upset if my supervisor explains that I’m not doing a good job and need to correct some things. But that doesn’t have anything to do with my worth or value either.
“I don’t care what you think,” comes from a place of fear; it’s a fear that we will be defined by what they say. But perfect love casts out fear. We can be free to care about and listen to the thoughts and opinions of others because they won’t change our worth and value that has been set in the concrete of Perfect Love. Plus, their thoughts just might have the added benefit of improving something about us in some way.
In what situations do the thoughts and opinions of others begin to mess with your worth and value? How does what God told me help you fight it?
Jesse and Kara Birkey
*Valuing the thoughts and opinions of others doesn’t mean that we have to agree with them or accept them into our lives!