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