Christianity and Fitness – Intimidation

Please read the previous article in the Christianity and Fitness series: Finding a Facility.

“I’ve never been so intimidated in my whole life. I walked in and everybody looked so much better than me. I felt out of place.”

Many can relate to that quote, whether it is stepping into a gym or a church. Throughout life, there are many things that can intimidate us. This latest Christianity and Fitness will go over the intimidation factors surrounding Christianity and fitness and give ways to overcome those factors.

Christian Intimidation

It is easy to be intimidated as a Christian. After all, you are in a faith that is heavily persecuted in most parts of the world. You are also in a faith where everybody expects you to act a certain way. One pastor once told me that if you ever want to know how a Christian should behave, ask a non-Christian.

Christians can also be intimidated by the church facility, and even other Christians. This section will go into several ways Christians can be intimidated.

Cliques

Christianity is not immune from cliques. Walking into church each Sunday, I am witness to quite a few of them. Cliques — although sometimes necessary — more-or-less make people feel like they don’t belong. Here are some examples of cliques in the church:

  • Husbands/Wives/Children

    One time I attended an ice-cream social where “all members” were allowed to come. It was too bad that I was the only one without a child there. I left rather quickly.

  • Marrieds

    A single guy in a “marrieds” clique just doesn’t go over well.

  • Singles

    Likewise non-single people in a “singles” clique do not fit in at all. People who are married always have extra advice to throw in that the singles just groan at.

  • Youth

    The youth are definitely their own special clique and typically always sit near or around each other during church. It is extra tough to break into their circle, especially if you are above college age.

Sadly, there is no easy way to get around cliques. Cliques are around in middle schools, high schools, colleges, and even workplaces. It is only natural that cliques find their way into churches.

One simple and effective way in getting over the intimidation factor of church cliques (or groups) is to join one. Going to church every Sunday or so is good, but it’s even better to become an active part of the church body and join a small group. These small groups are extremely helpful for getting to know people on an intimate level. Small groups help break down the cliques that seem painfully obvious at first. You get to know people outside of their environment so-to-speak.

Spiritual Walk

This is where I get the most intimidated. I’ll see Christians who seem to just have it together. They pray every day, read the Bible every day, and seem to be truly worshiping God on Sundays. I think to myself, “Wow. I wish I were like that.”

The truth is, it doesn’t really matter how much someone prays or how often someone reads the Bible. It doesn’t matter how often someone speaks in tongues or raises their hands in praise. The ultimate goal of any Christian should be to be more like Christ.

During one of my Bible studies, the leader of the study kept hammering this verse into my skull:

Philippians 3:10 (NIV) – I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death,

Reading further on in Philippians, I discovered this verse as well:

Philippians 3:13-14 – 13Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

Every person who becomes a Christian is to be more like Christ and to reach the place that God has all called us to be: with Him up in heaven. How we get there compared to everyone else is irrelevant. Christians will all take different paths. The important thing to realize is that we will reach that goal.

It is important to pray, it is important to read, and it is important to give praise. However, comparing yourself to others for the purpose of reaching higher on the Christianity meter is nothing but discouraging. Be encouraged that God will take you as you are.

Spiritual Gifts

Adding on to the last bullet is the subject of spiritual gifts. Other Christians may be more blessed in a certain areas. The verse below summarizes why one shouldn’t be intimidated over spiritual walks and/or gifts.

Romans 12:3-8 (NIV) – 3For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you. 4Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, 5so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. 6We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. 7If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; 8if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.

Christians have strengths and weaknesses just like the rest of society. Do not feel intimidated by what you can’t do. Concentrate on what you can do and go from there.

Lack of Knowledge

If you are new to Christianity, or have been a Christian for years, you may run into people who know way more than you can ever hope to know regarding the Bible and/or Christianity in general. Once again, do not be intimidated. Some have been given the spiritual gift of teaching, wisdom, or knowledge. You are not inferior just because you haven’t received these gifts. The body of Christ is one. One particular body part is not more important than another. If one body part were to fall off, the entire body would be affected.

Fitness Intimidation

Much like one can be intimidated as a Christian, one can be intimidated when working on their fitness level. There are several ways a person can be intimidated while working on their fitness.

Physical Walk

Just as I mentioned spiritual walk above in describing Christian intimidation, there is a physical walk aspect of fitness that can be intimidating for many people.

If a person hasn’t gone to the gym for a while, or perhaps has just started running, there is a nice bit of reality that is going to have to set in before that person can continue on the journey of physical fitness. The nice bit of reality is this: working out is tough and is different for everybody.

If everybody had the same physical walk, there wouldn’t be so many different diets and workout books out there. What works for one person may not work for another.

Some people have trouble gaining weight. Others have trouble losing it. Some can run for miles, while others get winded after a few minutes. Some can lift heavily, while others can only lift a little bit.

A co-worker once told me that her son had stopped working out because he wasn’t getting as big (as muscular) as his brother. I asked her a few questions about her son and found out that the son was an avid runner. I then asked if the more muscular brother was a good runner. She said no. It was obvious that her two sons were built rather differently and both had their own strengths.

Just like in Christianity, I believe we all have our own physical gifts that God has given us. It is up to us to not be intimidated when others have a much easier time doing something.

One last example I will give is an experience I had at the gym. I had been working out my arms for about six months and was proud at the weight I was lifting. One of my friends who hadn’t worked out for a while saw me lifting the weight and saw how much I was struggling. As I placed the weight down, my friend picked up the weight with very little effort. Something that had taken me months to work up to was easy for my friend. In that situation, I chose not to be intimidated because I knew my friend was built different.

Lack of Knowledge

People working on their fitness struggle with lack of knowledge. One of the purposes of a personal trainer is to teach somebody how to use all of the equipment in the gym.

It is important to learn the exercises, learn how the machines function, and learn how not to injure yourself. The instructions on how to use the machines are usually right on the machine. I would also suggest buying a good book on exercises if you plan on using free-weights.

Remember this: everybody started at one time. If anything, you can watch how other people exercise and take some notes. If you see an exercise you really like, don’t be embarrassed to go up to that person and ask him/her how to do it. It is always nice to be able to give someone else exercise tips.

The Environment

There are some workout environments that are just flat out intimidating for people. For example, some women do not feel comfortable in a gym with men at all. This is one of the reasons why Curves is so popular.

Others don’t feel comfortable because they don’t belong in the same “weight class” as the rest of the gym members. For example, I am extremely skinny compared to most people. Others may feel overweight compared to most people.

Do not let an environment stop you from working out. It is in your best interest to get into the gym and go. Work out for yourself and not others. People will always give you the stares no matter what fitness level you are at. Keep going. Don’t let somebody else stop you from achieving your goals.

Conclusion

It is important — whether you are working on your Christian walk or fitness level — to not let other people influence you negatively. You choose whether to be intimidated or not. Make a goal for yourself and go after it.

14 Comments

  1. One congregation I fellowshipped with for years had "intergenerational Sunday School." Adults and children met together unless the adults needed to discuss something the children did not need to hear. The lessons were tailored towards the children, but more often than not were so well done, the adults learned much from the lessons, too. Then we all met together for regular worship. Intergenerational Sunday School was one of the best ideas I ever saw in a church. We were a small congregation, so I am not sure it could be scaled upwards successfully. But for small churches, it is definitely an idea worth considering.

  2. I've never heard of that before, but it sounds neat. Our church has prayer time before church and not really a Sunday school. I would love it if our church started having something like that. It would help me relate to the youth more. Thanks for sharing Michael.

  3. Thanks for this post – I haven't made it to the club yet this year due to some of the reasons you mentioned! Hopefully now that it is February the New Year resoluters will have fallen off the wagon and it won't be too crowded there!

  4. Good post, Ronalfy.

    It is definitely easy to negatively compare oneself to others. It is also much too easy to find people who are worse off, too. The challenge is in finding people who we can emulate, people to look up to.

    You make a good point that it is not important if others have more or less faith, are more or less gifted. We will all have to give an account of our own actions, not others. We all are gifted differently, but are all called to serve. We all live different lives, but are all called to be holy.

    I do want to double check one thing with you, though.

    How we get there compared to everyone else is irrelevant. Christians will all take different paths. The important thing to realize is that we will reach that goal.

    Contrast that with John 14:6 "Jesus said to him, 'I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.'" You aren't saying that there are multiple ways to salvation, right?

    cetroyer

  5. Cetroyer,

    I didn't mean to imply that there are multiple routes to salvation. I meant once that salvation has been guaranteed (Ephesians 1:4-14), there are many paths that Christians can take regarding the Christian walk. Not all Christians take the same path, but the end result is the same: the Christian ends up in Heaven.

    Did that help clarify and do I need to re-word my article?

  6. I thought that is what you meant, just wanted to get it in writing. 🙂

    cetroyer

  7. So now that you have it in writing, what do you plan to do with it? 😛

  8. Good points. In general, it's not good to compare ourselves with others. I used to wish I was a great speaker and that I looked better, and so I really struggled with those issues. It took a while to overcome it, because I had to retrain the way I think. I was just comparing myself to others, thus feeding my insecurities (which also had/have to be dealt with).

    Comparing ourselves with others (and, basically, judging ourselves based on that) can keep us from using our gifts/talents, too. My piano playing isn't like Anthony Burger or Roger Bennett, yet instead of feeling inferior, I'm going to use my talents for God anyway. I'm still not a great speaker, but I won't let that stop me from trying to minister when given those opportunities.

    Also, when making comparisons with other people, we don't see the full picture. Someone may seem to have their spiritual walk "all together", but they could be putting on a front or hiding their struggles. They may stumble in the same areas you do. I think most of us do struggle with the same type of stuff — it just manifests itself slightly differently. We also don't see how much someone prays and studies to overcome the temptations that are common to us all.

  9. Thank you for weighing in Beppo. Small groups help with the "all together" struggle because they tend to humanize those that appears to be ducks on water.

  10. Inasmuch as it is natural for humans to gravitate toward those with whom they agree and identify with the most, it doesn’t follow that it’s right (at least all the time), especially if it’s at someone else’s expense.

    Having been on the receiving end of being excluded from just about every social group my own age, I believe I can offer an opinion on this subject that is, with all due respect, more grounded in reality.

    The simple fact is that cliques form in churches where church discipline is sorely lacking. This is especially the case where the bulk of the membership is wealthy. A church I attended years ago had one particular family in which the father was, and still is, a major real estate developer in my home town. His teenage daughter also attended this church and, despite her evangelical veneer, was one of the most lecherous people I had ever met. She got away with it too because she was attractive and popular, and I’m sure that if the pastor said anything, her father would intervene and threaten to cut off the cash flow.

    Of course, if I ever said or did anything that was out of order, I got into trouble. Interesting double standard, eh?

    Mark Driscoll, in one of his recent sermons, said that soft words make hard hearts. I believe he’s absolutely right. Pastors let their congregations off too easy. Stupid parents also make the dumbest excuses for their children’s misbehavior. They’ll say things like “it’s natural”, “they’re just teenagers”, “it’s a part of growing up”, “at least my kid’s not a loser”, etc., etc. Suffice it to say, if the parents effectively give their children carte blanche to do whatever they want, they will, no matter what the consequences are or who they hurt in the process.

    The solution to all of this is simple: give the authorities in the church the power the Bible assigns to them. People who continue in sin AND are unrepentant about it should, in no uncertain terms, be approached and warned that if they continue in this behavior they will be excommunicated from the church. It’s funny how when the gauntlet is finally thrown down, these people mysteriously disappear and find another church more to their liking.

    Something else to consider: when your pastor starts assuming his responsibility and acting like he “has a pair”, you need to back him up, because he will be attacked. Right now, my pastor is starting to flex his muscles and I intend to be there to defend him when the time comes. It will help to keep him from quitting when the going gets tough.

  11. @Ethan,

    Thank you for your insight. It’s good to hear you’re willing to put on your armor along with your pastor.

    Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to comment.

  12. Mary Jane Prothro-Jones

    October 13, 2009 at 10:45 am

    I found the topic Christianity and Fitness – Intimidation very interesting. I am a member of Curves and yesterday I was approached by a “Christian” who was determined to covert me to her beliefs. I told her I respected her beliefs but I did not want to talk about religion with her (I come to Curves to work out and leave), she continued and it was extremely intimidating. I continued to protest and eventually she said, “I’ll pray for you.” and left.

    Believe me I am out numbered at this gym when it comes to Christians wanting to recuit people and I feel it is completely inappropriate. I feel a gym is no place for politics OR religion. Just leave me alone and let me work out. Believe me Curves is the cliquest gym I’ve ever been to, and they are Christian cliques. I’m a Buddhist. Should I be intimidated just because I don’t believe the way you do?

    • No, you shouldn’t be intimidated. I’m sorry you had an unfortunate encounter. Next time let the management know you’re being harrassed by customers.

  13. Mary Jane Prothro-Jones

    October 13, 2009 at 11:32 pm

    Thanks Ron!

    MJ

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