August 12, 2022

This is How the Spotlight Effect is Holding You Back


This is an exerpt from the full podcast episode “Living a Worthy Life, In-Church Controversy, and the Spotlight Effect”.

I want to talk about a psychological concept that I learned about in psychology in my degree. It’s called the spotlight effect.

Basically, it is this concept that we all seem to think that everyone’s looking at us all the time and that all eyes are on us. We think we have the spotlight on us. We think everyone’s staring at us and we feel uncomfortable. It’s like when you go to the gym and you think everyone’s watching you and you’re worried about if you’re going to do something wrong. That’s what it’s called. It’s the spotlight effect.

I think that this plays into the previous two things that I talked about, in terms of church controversy, and also living a worthy life. I think it plays into these things, but I want to look at how the Bible would look at this. In Colossians 3:23-25, it says:

Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. For the wrongdoer will be paid back for the wrong he has done, and there is no partiality.

Colossians 3:23-25

The Audience of One

I think if we sum that up the best thing we can, we as Christians are called to live to the audience of one. What I mean by that is we are called only to live for the glory of God, as if God is watching us, not for other people. Here’s how I think this plays into these other two issues that I’ve talked about.

In terms of living a worthy life, when you’re trying to live a life worthy of the gospel and you feel like everyone’s staring at you, you feel like everyone’s mocking you when you talk about non-believers and other people, at school, at church, or at work. When you’re worried about those people mocking you and seeing what you’re doing and being like, “Oh, what the heck, this dude’s a loser.” That’s obviously going to prevent you from living a worthy life.

By the way, this spotlight effect is not real. It’s just how we perceive things. We think everyone’s looking at us, but literally 99% of the time, most people think the same about themselves. So they’re not actually looking at you, they’re thinking that everyone else is looking at them. They’re not actually paying attention to what you’re doing.

So when we become way too conscious and way too worried about what everyone else is doing or thinking of us, we can’t live a worthy life. A worthy life, a life worthy of the gospel, is counter cultural. It’s outside of what other people would desire for you to do or it’s outside of fitting in with the crowd.

So we have to realize we only live to an audience of one, and that one is God. We have to be focused on what are we doing and what he’s called us to do. Are we doing what the world is trying to call us to do? Are we deviating from God’s design for our lives? We have to recognize that, in our own lives, not everyone is always looking at us. Even when people are, we’re still called to live a life worthy of the gospel.

Then in terms of church controversy, I think that when you’re a big leader or a big pastor of a mega church, you feel like everyone is looking at you. A lot of times, many people are looking at you and you can kind of get inflated with pride. You begin to elevate yourself above the word and above Jesus.

So I think in both of these scenarios, we have to realize and apply scripture in Colossians 3 to our lives, that not everyone is looking at us. we need to start getting that in our heads. Second of all, the Bible specifically calls us to live to the audience of God, not to the audience of other people.

So all of us, whether it’s living a worthy life or whether you’re a church leader, try to stay humble, stay above reproach, and stay within the confines of biblical balance. I think we all have to realize that the best thing that we can do is live our lives to the glory of God and live our lives in pursuit of God’s holiness and God’s design for our lives.

When you’re so caught up in living the way God wants you to, you won’t get involved in controversies and you won’t have time to worry about what people are looking at you or saying about you. We as Christians just need to focus on living for God and living a life worthy of the gospel in representing Jesus properly here on earth.