Who’s on your list of people you have to please? Your players, their parents, your booster club, your athletic director, your coaches, your teammates, your parents…this is a list that never ends. Yet, how many of us are worn out trying to make everyone happy? Somewhere inside of us, we know we can’t please everyone, but that deep belief, for whatever reason, doesn’t seem to guide our daily mindset and choices.

And it’s killing us.

Proverbs 29:25 gives some insight: “The fear of man brings a snare, but he who trusts in the Lord will be exalted.”

This “fear of man,” being controlled by what others think and how we appear to them, that’s what’s destroying us, ensnaring us just like it did when this verse was written.

Here are the traps.*

The performance trap. If only I could reach that coaching wins milestone, if only I could get an invitation to that showcase, if only I could get a follow or retweet from that person or organization…then it will finally prove to everyone (read: myself) that I’ve got some value. The problem with this is that there’s always someone higher on the ladder than you. You’ll never be good enough to win the approval of the next level of people. Your value will always be less by comparison than someone else. Also, if your goal is to be “better” than others, you eventually become an arrogant manipulator.

The blame trap. Someone deserves to be punished for what goes wrong in your life, right? When you’re bound up by what people think, you’re either going to berate yourself for your mistakes or blame someone else so you’re off the hook. This is why players and coaches are unduly hard on themselves or make excuses for poor performance.

The shame trap. When you’re driven by pleasing others and when your self-worth is tied up in what they think, you can easily feel shame and hopelessness when you don’t live up to those standards. Instead of a coach who made a wrong strategic decision, you’re useless and stupid. Instead of a player who made an error, you’re a worthless person who will never amount to anything.

Here’s the remedy: hear and believe the gospel of Jesus Christ. Count on his sinless performance to validate you before God (it does). Trust that he has taken the blame originally assigned to you for your sin (he has). Trade in your shame for his righteousness (you can).

There is no more important message than this: you are not your win/loss record or your performance on the field. You are not even the sins you commit and the mistakes you make. Better still, you are not valued by what you do well. You are, according to Scripture, loved, approved, and forgiven because of the love and grace of God through Jesus Christ.

Trying to please everyone–“the fear of man”–is a trap. But trusting in the Lord exalts you to what you could never attain on your own: acceptable in God’s eyes.

Lord Jesus, this is so huge. Help me not to miss it or ignore it. Thank you that I don’t have to perform, don’t have to take the blame, and don’t have to receive any shame. You did all that for me. Praise your holy name. Amen