Whose opinions should matter to you?

It is always easy to give other people advice.

This week I wrote this to a friend:

Decide which people you are going to care about and care for, and then give a rip what they think. They are your disciples, mentors, family, future, whatever.

If you choose to care what everyone thinks, you are elevating the opinions of fans to the same level as the opinions of investors. Nancy has bought the privilege of an opinion with her life. The person who clicked follow because someone said they should hasn’t bought that privilege.

I think I believe that. However, since I wrote to my friend, I’ve been wrestling with my own advice. And so, I’m asking for your involvement over this weekend. Pick one of the following questions and leave a brief answer for the rest of us.

  1. How much of my energy that should be given to my family is spent on feeling bad (or feeling good) about words from someone I’ve never even met? The answer to that, looking back at my life, is “way too much.” So what is the remedy, in simple practical terms?
  2. I know that Jesus teaches me to love everyone. I know that’s possible for him. What are the practical limits for me? How many people can I care deeply for and about?
  3. How many “disciples” can I have at a time? I’m not talking in some abstract “we are all followers of something” sense. I mean, how many people can I be consistently, thoughtfully, intentionally, conversationally helping to grow at a time? How many can you?
  4. Knowing that I will do foolish things, make controversial statements, commit to things that other people will disagree with, who are the people whose questions or comments I should care about? How do you decide? I would guess that the answer is between no one and everyone. But where?
  5. How often do I need to explain why I do what I do to people who haven’t bought the right to care what I do? Jesus, for example, had circles of explaining. He explained some things to no one, some things to his close circle, some things to everyone. Is that a workable model? How?

I know. It feels like a midterm exam. But maybe that’s what it is. These are questions that matter for the course we are in the middle of.

I look forward to your insights.


Here’s my post Fans and disciples

Here’s a link to my ebook on Making Disciples


15 responses to “Whose opinions should matter to you?

  1. Great idea! Thanks to @chrisbrogan for suggesting I check this out.

    Answering #3

    I am very interested in contributing to other peoples success, how many people can I handle? It depends on the time frame we’re talking about here. I’d like to think that if you know me I’ve done something to contribute to your success at some point. That’s a lot of people. Even if I don’t know you, I still help people. See what I mean in this recent blog post: http://bit.ly/ci4tB0

  2. Great point. I have had lots of people give negative feedback and it’s easy to let it sway your opinions and actions.

    There’s a core group of people that I really listen to but everyone else I just view as a general poll testing the public opinion. Not to be taken exceptionally seriously.

  3. Very insightful and thoughtful post. Some of your questions should be asked from high school on, although I’d anticipate that the answers will vary depending upon the person, time and circumstance. Frankly, if I’d had some guidance or instruction to begin asking myself questions 1, 2 and 4 at an earlier age, I might have ended up with less of a struggle for my self esteem and learned greater respect for others sooner. I think questions 3 and 5 are college/graduate level questions that chould be be added to the “let me check my inner self on this” list a bit later. These are impactful questions that I will start asking my highest self in regular, quietly introspective moments. Any pointers to my own inner guideposts in this sojourn are always appreciated.

  4. You said one question and I choose 4,but I also want to comment on loving everyone. Being human, and subject to irritibality and disappointed I don’t think even Jesus adored everyone all the time. I think he meant to constantly and eternally force oneself to recognize the humanity, the rights, the suffering of Others, and to feel the love for that inner soul-light carried by all.

    I have spent far too many years measuring myself by other’s standards, afraid to try things that would fail spectacularly, afraid to exist in all my radiant shambles, afraid to create anything that might be too much or too little. At this point I try to pick a few to consider when I work (not necessarily family– for intimacy make a burden of response for them not present with strangers). I look for those whose work and way of living I admire, then I try to work to those standards, whether that person I aware of it or not. In turn I try to give what I can with a generous spirit and kindness, and just hope that something is recieved whether I ever know it or not. Because I have been given this gift by many who did not know its value to me, I can hope this works in waves throughout life.

  5. Great questions… I have thought a lot about #2, specifically, “how many people can I care deeply about. I think everything social media has given us the illusion that we can care for a lot more people in a deep and meaningful way that we really can. It may increase the number a little, but mostly, it helps us to have a casual and sometimes meaningful relationship with a lot of people. The best investment of our time, in my humble opinion, is with people, face to face, creating deep and meaningful relationships.

  6. Okay, I’ll jump in.

    First–great post, Jon. I found you through Chris Brogan & regret it wasn’t sooner!

    As for your questions, I’ll go with #4. I think your response to your friend is right on. She bought the right to an opinion by investing her life in her friend.

    My filters are: Who are the people who know me best? Who still loves you when I’m at my worst? Who do I trust to shoot straight with me?

    These are the only people whose opinions I should care about. They know my heart, my motivations, my trigger points and how I live my life privately as well as publicly.

    But “should” is the operative word there. I’m not in the spotlight like some but sometimes I still find myself obsessing over a negative blog comment, review or offbeat remark. It’s hard not to take that stuff personally because I invest so much of myself in what I do.

    But there will always be critics who don’t understand [or care to], so reminding myself to focus on those who’s opinions truly matter is the only way I try to stay sane.

    Thanks for such a great post

  7. Jon, I arrived here via a tweet from Chris Brogan. Not knowing more then what you’ve posted above and not being connected with you before I have to say that your response to your friend was spot on.

    People that are outside our sphere of influence and that have not contributed equity to our lives are worth listening to to see if what they are saying has value. If so then work on building a deeper connection. On the flip side of that coin if those same people are constantly wearing us down with negativity and blame and never respond to our kindness and outreach then it’s time to cut them loose. That’s not to say we stop caring about their lives or stop praying for some healing.

    We are all struggling in one way or another and need to offer the helping hand, the supporting comments, the good advice and the love from our hearts.

    So I guess I’m answering question #2. It may be that you only have the capacity to care deeply for just a few people where someone else may be able to genuinely care for many or just one. Each of us is unique in the ability to reach and connect with certain people – the answer to your question lies only within yourself.

    For me the list is in constant flux. There is a core around which others come and go depending on life influences at the time but mostly it’s really never more than 6 to 8 people that I can truely and deeply care for and about.

    Thanks for posing the questions and allowing us the opportunity to share. – Bruce

  8. Hey Jon, very thought-provoking post. Well done! Thanks @chrisbrogan for the suggestion 🙂

    Here are my thoughts on #1… Absolutely way too much of our energy is wasted on emotions brought on by someone we’ve never met (or who hasn’t earned the right to matter). The solution: therapy and age. In my experience, the older I get the less power/energy I am willing to give to someone else and the less I care about what someone I don’t even know has to say about me. Thanks to a great therapist years ago, I was able to let go of the personal issues that made me put so much credence on what others thought or said about me. I know in my heart that I am doing the best that I can, that I am not even close to perfect, and that I have my priorities in order. Because of this, I am able to let other people’s negative comments be their issue, not mine. I don’t even “take it on” anymore which allows me to keep all of my good energy ready for those who need and deserve it most- my family!!

  9. I keep coming back to two words.

    Integrity. Every time in my career that I have done truly meaningful stuff, I have pissed off some people. My integrity has cost me my position at least once (maybe more, it’s hard to say from here).

    Purpose. What has brought me back from every low point has been having a purpose. Sometimes it was a matter of re-discovering what my larger purpose. But with that purpose, it’s easier to say what matters and who matters, easier to sort what is coming in.

  10. Hi Jon, what interesting questions.

    In relation to 1… you are a thoughtful, generous soul. You notice others. You are by nature a chaplain. That means you give your time, energy, attention, love to others. That is what you do.

    I’m sure your family know that, and love you for it.

    Maybe letting go of the feeling bad about the way you are would be one way of creating more energy for your core circle, including yourself.

    I also still have a lingering feeling you are a putting a lot of pressure on yourself to create end result / products (I keep coming back to your three words) when what you are truly good at is the listening and responding and being attuned.

    I have the feeling once again I am stepping over the mark, but… you did ask 😉

  11. Chris Bowser

    Jon –My thoughts on #2: (“2.I know that Jesus teaches me to love everyone. I know that’s possible for him. What are the practical limits for me? How many people can I care deeply for and about?)…

    We live (at least for now) bounded by the limits of time. The creator we serve does not live within any boundaries at all. What is possible for Him may not be possible for us. However, we are called to love each other and would not have been asked to do so if it were impossible to do. Love can be a transitive verb or a noun for that matter. We simply do not have an infinite amount of time to totally immerse ourselves in every person’s life that we care about. Jesus chose 12 and He was (I believe) God with skin. Jesus did not heal everybody and He was God. Bottom line: Love (really love) the ones He has placed along your path, care about and pray for the others and reach out when He nudges (or whacks) you to do so. God knows you don’t have an infinite supply of time (now); He invented time (for us). What we all have is the time we are given, nothing more and nothing less. What we all need to ask is: “Am I using the time I am given wisely; am I making a difference”?


  12. J. van der Linden

    This is an old question and not likely to be answered in simple, practical terms. Marcus Aurelius said “I have often wondered how it is that every man loves himself more than all the rest of men, yet sets less value on his own opinion of himself than on the opinion of others.”

    People like to be right and for our ideas to be right. If we thought our ideas were wrong we would change our minds, after all. Many of us resolve this by deciding that we should just shrug the notions of others off or separate ourselves from them. Don’t give your mental real estate away to a freeloader, they say, and sometimes this is helpful. It is nevertheless true that if three people tell you that you are growing a tail you might develop a nagging desire to have a look at your behind in a mirror.

    I think it is the nature of a person to be affected by others, to be influenced by others. It also seems to me that our notions of privacy, of personal individual identity, may have extended to the point that they outstrip the ability of our central nervous system and brain to handle. Our notion of who is “us” and who is “them” – and our notion of what is acceptable behavior towards members of each – is not what it was when people became human. These notions are not even what they were when Jesus first spoke to us. When tension between our need to respond to others and our need to be ourselves gets too high, our feelings start sending us messages, which we should heed. But it is I think important to understand that feelings often point to a problem but rarely define it in a useful way or provide a solution – it is important not to confuse the finger pointing at the moon, with the moon.

    It seems to me in the end to be a process of feedback, not a problem to be resolved and disposed of. It calls to mind the possibly legendary notion of the Roman generals having a slave at their ear to whisper “Remember that thou art but a human”, or the lenten practice of carrying a slip of paper in one pocket on which is written, “I am dust and ashes” and in the other pocket one which reads “For me the universe was created”. These notions are simultaneously and equally true and valid and maintaining both steadily and simultaneously as a basis for action is not a conflict to be resolved, it is an irreducible truth. So I am afraid that I think there is no simple practical solution – other than I suppose ceasing to embrace being fully human, which is not an option I myself care for. To be fully human is to try to believe and act upon both these things equally and at the same time. And of course sometimes to fail to do so.

  13. J. van der Linden

    On question 2 and 3, I think it is easy to love mankind and hard to love people, especially when they are being annoying. The disciples were annoying as well, that seems clear, forever jockeying for position and re-establishing the pecking order.

    But in the end, I think there is no way to know the answer in advance, it is necessary to live the answer. How many one can love and how deeply is a question of grace, it seems to me. Without grace, I think the number is considerably smaller than it is with it. And there is no commanding or predicting grace.

  14. oh my. Your responses have been wonderful. Rather than responding to each, I’m going to pull these into a couple of posts this week. Thank you.

  15. Pingback: 8 ways to make a disciple. « Levite Chronicles