I’ve heard a lot of sermons in my life cautioning against seeking the approval of others. I’ve nodded my head and thought “Yes! We must live for an audience of one – – the one being the Lord God Almighty.” And I thought I did that and did that well. After all, I was bold in my faith – – with a “ Just Give Me Jesus And Let the Chips Fall Where They May” attitude. So I didn’t think I was an approval junkie.
Until I was faced with the disapproval of others. Now if I wasn’t dependent on the approval of others, disapproval wouldn’t keep me up at night. It wouldn’t gnaw on my soul and overtake my mind with a constant longing to slay this disapproval. A gaping wound that felt like it could only be filled with the approval of others. No, if you’re not addicted to the praise of others – – you shrug, you consider, and you move on. But I couldn’t because I was paralyzed by it.
I couldn’t deny the fact that I had made an idol of the opinions of others. If opinions of me were good, I continued to worship that God as I received my own brand of worship from that God.
But when the opinions of others were not good – – that “God” – – that idol left me empty and without comfort. It left me desperate for a longing that would not be filled. And that’s not my God. He’s a satisfier. My God is a source of the kind of water where you thirst no more after you drink it.
And so I’ve been stripped down to the most basic questions this sinner must grapple with. . .
Is God enough? Or do I need God AND the positive thoughts and opinions of others?
There will always be things that only God and I know. Will that be special and true enough for me? Or must those around me understand it for me to truly embrace it?
Do I invest time and energy in combatting the disapproval of others? Or do I make myself a God if that is the strategy of my heart?
These are the questions of an approval junkie. And if you think about it, our very character is molded and shaped by performing well for the approval of others. . . coaches, teachers, mentors, youth leaders.
The striving and the earthly rewards that come with the striving are deeply engrained in the soil of our hearts. For me to deal with this, the striving had to cease. This allowed that sacred rest to begin. And it was there in the active, directed rest that the focus could fall to God and God alone. . .
What HE thinks of me. What He understands about me. What He calls to me. God doesn’t keep “liking” me on facebook. God doesn’t say “ you’re strong and amazing” and he doesn’t say “you’re not doing well with this struggle either.” He calls me the names that reflect who HE is. Chosen. Delighted in. Sung Over. Strong when I feel and appear weak. Saved. Victorious. Restored. He weights my responses according to what He is doing in my heart. And what He knows about my future.
So this being an approval junkie thing is no joke. Because there is an element of danger in “not caring” what others think. We see this behavior in rebel-hearted prodigals headed for destruction. We see it in addicts headed for death and disaster.
Sometimes those around you will see things you cannot see: dangers, snares, dangerous bends in your character, and so on. This type of wise, loving counsel must be sought out and prayerfully regarded at times. But if it is more than additional light on your path. . . If it is more than additional wisdom to consider. . . if it becomes your sole definition of yourself above the word of God – – then you, like me, must get back to the basics. If you’re an approval addict and god shows you that it’s true, you will need His help and to focus on HIM to start to walk out of it. Here’s what that path looks like for me:
1) Admit and repent of it. Everybody gets off track in their worship in one way or another. No shame. No condemnation in Christ. There’s always room to turn around. This path is no different.
2) Mourn the approval lost. Name it and grieve it. It hurt to feel the criticism. The words sting in the heart of your mind. It’s ok to be sad about that. Losing friends, reading hurtful comments, having people think oess of you than you’d like. . . whatever form of rejection or disapproval you’ve met – – it’s a huge disappointment. And there’s a time to grieve those so that you can let go of them and be free.
3) Take it to Jesus and ask Him to feel in the gaps. You’ve heard the term “ heartbreaker.” Well Jesus is the opposite of that. He’s a heart maker. He makes your heart right. Even if you’ve laid huge parts of it down at the wrong alters.
4) Recovering approval junkies will need ongoing approval ratings form the right source. Schedule a meeting with God where you ask His opinion of you daily. Get a journal and start focusing only on God for your approval ratings.
5) Lastly, do not confuse good circumstances with Godly approval. This is one of the enemy’s biggest tricks. Favor from God doesn’t always means success and rainbows and easy paths. We need only look to Job to see someone the Lord called blameless be brought to his knees by unfathomably difficult circumstances. God gave you the ultimate approval rating when He determined that you were worth the blood of His only son, Jesus Christ. No certificate, reward, commendation, comment, word of praise, or any other reward will ever compare with that.
Remind yourself of that as many times as it takes.
Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ. Galatians 1:10