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When People Are Big and God Is Small: Overcoming Peer Pressure, Codependency, and the Fear of Man

4.25  ·  Rating details ·  6,429 ratings  ·  378 reviews
However you put it, the fear of man can be summarized this way: We replace God with people. Instead of a biblically guided fear of the Lord, we fear others.
Of course, the “fear of man” goes by other names. When we are in our teens, it is called “peer pressure.” When we are older, it is called “people-pleasing.” Recently, it has been called “codependency.” With these label
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Paperback, 256 pages
Published June 1st 1997 by P & R Publishing (first published January 1st 1997)
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Tom Sussex
Feb 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I was trying to work out how to describe this book when I saw another review on here that said: "this book will crush you, then liberate you". I couldn't agree more! The author does an excellently biblical job of showing the freedom that can be found when we turn our focus away from ourselves and towards God. The book's overarching message (and I hope I remember it) is this:

Fear of man can be overcome when we stop seeing ourselves as cups that need to be filled by other people, and instead as pi
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Julia
Dec 17, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This book helped me see the shortcomings of modern need-based psychology and even modern Christian psychology with its tripartite view of man.

"To look to Christ to meet our perceived psychological needs is to Christianize our lusts. We are asking God to give us what we want, so we can feel better about ourselves, or so we can have more happiness, not holiness, in our lives" (p. 150).

"The most basic question of human existence becomes 'How can I bring glory to God?'--not 'How will God meet my ps
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David Luna
Mar 03, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I remember reading "The Purpose Driven Life" by Rick Warren in 2002, and the opening sentence was "It's not about you". I was startled, like threw the book down startled. Edward Welch has that same effect except it is throughout the entire book. Extremely insightful for Christians living in a "Me First" world. This book is highly recommended. There is no deep theology just brutal truth and embarrassing honesty, which was my guess not easy to write. ...more
Mike E.
Dec 03, 2010 rated it really liked it
This is blue-collar Christianity at its best. Welch writes a practical, readable guide to dealing with how we usually think about ourselves, God and others. He avoids Christian lingo and theological jargon. With clear and understandable ease he identifies the core struggles that human beings have. The core issue is not self-esteem or self-confidence; we are not "love-cups" that need to find the right people or environment to fill us up. We are "idol factories" that actually long for things and p ...more
Maris McKay
Jan 03, 2019 rated it liked it
I have such mixed feelings about this book. The first few chapters were strongly written and personally convicting with the idea that our fears and anxieties about other people happen because we don't have a proper view of God's power and sovereignty. I agree that we let fear of man get in the way of a correct relationship with God far too often, and that a big part of the solution is to focus less on ourselves and more on God.

However, I feel that in proposing a solution Edward Welch went a litt
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Bambi Moore
Jul 17, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: spiritual-growth
2014: Great book, particularly the last half. I realized how much I had bought into some psychobabble over the years (as Welch mentions, it is in the air we breathe, like smog). Viewing ourselves as cups to be filled (I.e. "Love tanks") looking for other people to meet our needs, versus seeing ourselves as full pitchers of Christ's love, just waiting to be spilled over and out onto others, has renewed my thinking. We have fear of men because of potential rejection, their ability to shame us. But ...more
Ashley
It's not often that I find a book where I wholeheartedly agree with the author's main idea while disagreeing so strongly with the way that idea is presented. In this case, the main idea is that Christians need to look for Christ for fulfillment rather than other people and what they can (or can't) offer us. That's fine and true, and I would argue for it myself.
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However, I would hesitate before recommending this book to anyone. Welch backs up his thesis primarily by introd
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Kaitlyn Pindak
Jan 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing
One of the best and most highly recommended books I have ever read. As a fellow church member said, “it will crush and liberate you because of what it reveals in your heart.” I’ve never had a better and more appropriate book recommendation. We don’t need to be more self-aware; we need a greater fear of the Lord and to starve our fear of man. We need our eyes fixed on the One we were made to worship.
Tara
Dec 02, 2012 rated it liked it
Welch's thesis is rather jarring to anyone raised in modern-day America where the individual is king and low self-esteem is a heinous offense. I kept thinking some of his statements lacked the appropriate nuances, but that may have just been me looking for an out. Ha. I will say I liked what he was saying a good deal more than how he was saying it---but that's true of a lot of his books for me. And since I can't think of any other books that address "low self-esteem" in Biblical terms (idolatry, ...more
David J. Harris
How much does the fear of man prevent us from living for Christ? Probably more than you think. Reading this book opened my eyes to a multi-faceted issue I struggle with: having a low view of God (God is too small) and having a high view of man (man is too big). Fear to evangelize, failure to confront other believers about sin, not making changes in my life for fear of what others think, and caring more about expectations of men than of God, all can be summarized by the title of this book. This b ...more
Hannah
Oct 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
Man, this packed a punch! Such a helpful articulation of who we are in light of who God is & what we truly “need”!
Josiah
This was a truly excellent book that not only was a fantastic analysis and deconstruction of our culture's messed-up understanding of self-esteem, but was also a book that I personally needed to read and learn from. The book's central goal is to help its readers to fear God more than man, and the more Welch unpacked what a fear of man looks like, the more and more clearly I could see it in the culture and in my own life as well. Welch's love for people comes clearly through in this book, as well ...more
Chris Wilson
May 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This book has been on the "to read" list for almost two years, and I just now got around to getting it read. My only regret is not having ready it sooner.

The book is divided into two sections. "How and Why We Fear Others," the first section deals with fear of man, where it comes from, and how it plays out in our lives daily. The best chapter, in my opinion, was chapter five, "The World Wants Me to Fear People." It is in this chapter that Welch points out the various ways that culture has made fe
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Ellie
Nov 09, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: christian
Welch doesn't dress up the truth! At times what he was saying was a hard pill to swallow (and felt almost brutal!), but it was very helpful stuff and grounded in truth rather than what his audience might want to hear. In particular, chapter 9 "Know Your Real Needs" had many of these moments as it strongly went against the modern, Western cultural grain and challenged the idea that we have psychological needs at all. This is a helpful book for those who struggle with under-confidence or over-conf ...more
Kevin Naylor
May 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is one of the most helpful books I've ever read.

Welch outlines the problem: what we "need" is what controls us. So when we feel we need people for validation, security, affirmation, approval, love, etc we allow them to control us. They get determine how we think, feel, and respond on a minute to minute basis. This leaves us discouraged, unhappy, confused, hurt, bitter, distant, angry, etc. Fearing others prevents us from loving others.

He helps us see biblically what is that we truly need.
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Rex Blackburn
Dec 01, 2018 rated it liked it
Overall, I liked it! Any time we get to dogpile on the shortcomings of modern psychology, I'm all in. Welch exposes the inherent weaknesses that exist in our needs-focused, self-centered mindset, offering instead a high view of God and a life centered on His glory. I found chapter 5 most helpful. ...more
Arielle
May 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This was an excellent read! A very convicting read that highlights the importance of fearing and revering God which is the root of how we view others and ourselves. Such a great book! I recommend this to every Christian!
Keri Higgins
Feb 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I thoroughly enjoyed this book! It is so helpful, encouraging & convicting. Full of scripture, Gospel truths, & wisdom! Must read!
Katie Cooper
Apr 24, 2020 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2020
2.5. Liked the big picture concepts, didn't care for the delivery and some of the conclusions the author landed on. ...more
Shawn Woo
Dec 12, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
http://scarletyarn.com/2012/08/30/whe...

Edward Welch insists that fear of man is an insidious sin that every human being deals with one way or another. For an adult, it is called codependency, for an adolescent, peer pressure. It is a desire to be valued and wanted by others that manifests itself in low self-esteem, shame, feelings of rejection, jealousy, anger, and/or preoccupation with external appearance. Welch writes that the fear of man keeps us “in bondage, controlled by others and feeling
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Jordan Brown
Mar 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Certainly the most convicting book I have read in recent years, Welch exposes the fear of man that all people struggle with in some measure. My pastor recommended this book for me and I highly recommend it to you.

Part 1 discusses how and why we fear people and part 2 explains how to overcome that fear. As a person grows in the fear of the Lord, he will learn to not let people control him. As Welch frequently states throughout the book, "We are to need people less and love them more."

Where I've
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Lisa
May 16, 2011 rated it really liked it
I really like this book. I've read it a couple times. An ongoing theme throughout the book is "love people more and need them less". Meaning that we shouldn't need people to make us feel happy or fulfilled.
One section talks about how people are our idol of choice. We give them more power over us than God. We want people to fill us with love, respect and acceptance. As with any idol, it soon owns us. "The object we fear overcomes us. Although insignificant in itself, the idol becomes huge and rul
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Marla
Aug 11, 2020 rated it really liked it
This is a hard one to rate...I say it's a 4.5.
Welch's points are eye opening and challenging, but the first half was hard for me to get through. His conclusion at the end is insightful and I liked his real life examples.

"The fear of the Lord simplifies life"

"If you have ever walked among the giant redwoods, you will never be overwhelmed by the size of a dogwood tree. Or if you have been through a hurricane, a spring rain is nothing to fear. If you have been in the presence of the Almighty God
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Anna Chviedaruk
Jun 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Reading this book helped me to track down those hidden lies and sins that have paralized my life for so long. It's a theurapeutic book which deals with self-esteem, people pleasing, values, and self-image in a very honest and deep way. Pride is not always what we are used to call it. But this book helps to identify to real deal about a self.

Highly recommend it to everyone, actually. You may be surprised at yourself.
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Mikaela
Great book! Would highly recommend.

I only read 75% and then lost the book, but once I find it I look forward to finishing it! But I definitely read enough to give an honest review.

Note: For my Audiobook friends, the audio isn’t on any of the mainstream platforms but you can buy it on the CCEF counselling website
Katie Ramsey
Jun 10, 2021 rated it really liked it
4.5 stars- I really struggled to get into this book at first. Part 1 (the first 5 chapters) just felt like I couldn't really tell where Welch was going and wasn't sure what to do with the information being presented. But Part 2 was so, so good. Chapter 9 (Knowing Your Real Needs) and Chapter 13 (Fear God and Keep His Commandments) were both so helpful. I actually want to go back through and take more notes and hi light more things because it truly was so much good and practical information. I re ...more
Mae Walker
Jan 17, 2021 rated it did not like it
Shelves: christianity
I started this book about 18 months ago, read the first two chapters about fearing people because of shame (fear of being known for who you are) and fear of rejection and I put the book down because that was enough for me to think about for 18 months!

However I was very disappointed reading this book today as Welch takes biblical concepts such as loving other people and finding our identity in Christ to such crazy extremes that he actually spends several chapters saying that people don't have psy
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Brandon Wilkins
Jul 02, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This a solid study of a common problem, which is codependency and the fear of man.

The book divides up into two sections. Part One: "How and Why We Fear Others." Part Two: "Overcoming the Fear of Others."

In brief, Welch's argument is that the fear of man can only be overcome by learning to fear God. Of course, "fearing God" is a potentially misleading concept--does it mean we need to be afraid of God instead of being afraid of people? Not necessarily. In fact, Welch's argument is that ultimately
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Tung
Mar 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
In describing the Ten Plagues that befell Egypt in Exodus, Pastor Voddie Bauchem noted that they were not merely meant to get the Israelites out of Egypt; they were also meant to get Egypt out of the Israelites. That is, it is important to God that secular worldviews are rooted out of the heart of His people. In this book, Welch identifies a critical worldview that far too often plagues Christians: we fear people more than we fear God. We fear them because they can expose our shortcomings; we fe ...more
Suzannah B.
Oct 23, 2020 rated it did not like it
Where to start... I'm a bit surprised that this is often suggested to those who are either interested in counseling or are anxious people. To be honest, I couldn't even get to the end of this book as I found it harsh and lacking compassion. Yes, it is wrong to idolize people and fear what they think of you. That portion of the book is clear and is perhaps helpful to those with people-pleasing issues.
But my problem lies in how the author describes normal fear, natural fear, as sinful. There's an
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Scripture Index 1 3 May 08, 2014 06:52AM  

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Edward T. Welch, M.Div., Ph.D., is a licensed psychologist and faculty member at the Christian Counseling & Educational Foundation (CCEF). He has counseled for thirty years and is the best-selling author of many books including When People Are Big and God Is Small; Addictions: A Banquet in the Grave; Blame It on the Brain?; Depression: A Stubborn Darkness; Crossroads: A Step-by-Step Guide Away fro ...more

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  Here at Goodreads, we've noticed that a funny thing tends to happen when we start talking about audiobooks: The same few titles get...
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“1. We fear people because they can expose and humiliate us.
2. We fear people because they can reject, ridicule, or despise us.
3. We fear people because they can attack, oppress, or threaten us. These three reasons have one thing in common: they see people as “bigger” (that is, more powerful and significant) than God, and, out of the fear that creates in us, we give other people the power and right to tell us what to feel, think, and do.”
41 likes
“Jesus did not die to increase our self-esteem. Rather, Jesus died to bring glory to the Father by redeeming people from the curse of sin.” 25 likes
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