There is a stark difference between how my husband and I approach conflicts at work. My husband focuses on making the right decisions and—though he’s a friendly, caring person—worries little about emotional or relational fallout. I remain keenly interested in how each decision, from a new process to a single remark, will affect what people think about me.

In this posture of gauging every move, my goal is to ensure people keep thinking of me positively. I want them to like me. When it comes down to it, I want everyone—in my work, church, family—to like me.

Of course, part of me knows this is unrealistic. Not everyone I interact with like me, sometimes for reasons out of my control. Plus, being universally liked is not necessarily a biblical desire. But it’s there, persistent and nagging, and it’s not just me who feels it.

In We Should All Be Feminists, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie wrote about American friends: “What struck me is how invested they are in being ‘liked.’ How they have been raised to believe that their being likable is very important and that this ‘likable’ trait is a specific thing. We spend too much time teaching girls to worry about what boys think of them. But the reverse is not the case.”

Throughout the Bible, there are specific calls for women to be kind, gentle, pure, and respectful (Prov. 31:26, Titus 2:5, 1 Peter 3:3). We could assume such traits would result in likeability, yet none of these character values presuppose that we’ll make our decisions by prioritizing how to stay in someone’s good graces. Christ’s upside down kingdom, where the first is the last—or perhaps for this example, where the cool is ...

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