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

4.28  ·  Rating details ·  5,359 ratings  ·  300 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
Paperback, 239 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
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
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.
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 ...more
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
Kaitlyn Pindak
Jan 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: rereadable
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.
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”!
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
David 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 ...more
Arielle Salazar
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!
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
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
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.
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!
Shawn Woo
Dec 12, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

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
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.
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
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
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
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
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 ...more
Apr 26, 2017 rated it really liked it
Fear of man can take different faces. It can look like peer pressure, perfectionism, people pleasing, or actual fear of threat from another person. As Christians, fear of man is to be replaced with a healthy fear of the Lord (a deep awe-inspiring respect and knowledge of how big and great and good our God is). The natural inverse correlation between allowing people to be big (fear of man) is that we make God small in our own eyes. Similarly, Welch digs into why popular needs-based psychology is ...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.
Nov 12, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This book could really change a life that is willing to be instructed by it. I definitely want to read it again. In this first read, it really opened my eyes so much to the ways I view myself and my own perceived needs, and how I look to others to meet those perceived needs. A huge takeaway phrase: "Need people less, love people more." Also, I was struck by the idea that it's not really about whether I am thinking too highly of myself or too poorly of myself in an interaction with another, it's ...more
Oct 29, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: christian-living
Sub-title: Overcoming Pressure, Co-Dependency, and the Fear of Man.

Pretty much says it all.

As Christians, we are not empty cups that need to be filled by other people or things. God is our resource.

When we fear man, to the point of idolatry, God indeed is small. The idols we worship, soon own us.

Know, grow in the Fear of God.
Here he does a really good job of talking of the spectrum of the topic of fear of God, from "reverence" to abject "terror" in relation to God. Good thoughts.

Rob McCutcheon
Aug 31, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: own
I cannot commend this book more highly. All followers of Christ - and those who do not yet know our Loving Savior - will find deep deep wisdom, insight, and guidance from one of the best. This book will reshape your relationships, if you let it. It will point you to your true need and away from what you merely think you need. We all give others a place of too much prominence in our lives; it’s time we started restoring the true balance of who should really command our attention, time, and ...more
May 24, 2008 rated it really liked it
This book is probably under the category of "Christian Self-Help" but really, it isn't a self-help book. It really should be under "Bible study" or "Topical Devotionals." Self help books are like candy, they make you feel good at the time, but really once you're done with them, you're done. This is more like trying to give up sugar. It doesn't feel very good and you don't really like it, but after a while, your tastes actually change. Perhaps I can update this with a more insightful review ...more
Daniel Joshua
Aug 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I don't remember why I had rated this three stars. After coming back to this book I have realized how much it influenced me. I highly recommend it to anyone who has trouble with trying to please people and not God. In fact I would recommend it to anyone for that matter. His writing is thoughtful and complete. He followed all his claims through carefully and clearly. For someone like me who is deeply internalized it helped put man-pleasing and suchlike in subordination to serving God with a whole ...more
Apr 18, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Welch asserts that "worldly presuppositions are in the air we breathe." Page after page left me realizing how influenced I've been by man's "wisdom" instead of God's. Welch fleshes out well the truth that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. Especially helpful are the practical applications he offers at the end of each chapter. I read this on a Kindle, but this book is hardcopy-worthy, one to return to often and one to mark up well.
Feb 27, 2014 rated it really liked it
Great read for those of us (which is pretty much all of us!!) who fear man more than God. Welch really digs deep into the reasons we fear man and how our fear stems from a lack of fear of God. Best quote: "We are to love people more and need people less."

I don't give a perfect review because at times the read got a little dry and I got bogged down in the psychology of it all. I would have preferred more practical, tangible advice and solutions to overcoming the fear of man.
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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 ...more
“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.”
“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.” 24 likes
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