True confession #879: I long for the approval of people. I mean long for it. There was a season in my life when I felt the anxiety over people's approval so acutely that I called my mom one night and told her, "Every night I go to bed and the last thing I think before falling asleep is that I hope I don't wake up in the morning."
As usual, my mom surprised me. Rather than panicking (which I thought would've been entirely appropriate), she challenged me. "I don't believe you don't want to live another day, Jeanne. You just don't want to live another day in this bondage." And just like that, I felt the first rays of hope. Because I realized it was true. I did want to live; I just didn't want to live like this.
Spinning in Circles
Living in the idolatry of man's approval is like living on a weathervane. You swing here and there, back and forth, your emotions as unpredictable as the wind. Then one day you realize that in all this time you've gotten nowhere. You've just been spinning in circles. Everybody loves me! Everybody hates me. I'm brilliant! I'm foolish. I'm wanted! I'm rejected. It's always the same song, sung over and over in a thousand different scenarios. And the star of the song is always the same—me.
The idol of approval isn't really about people-worship but self-worship.
I used to view the idol of approval as "people-worship." I was worshiping other people's thoughts and opinions. But the truth is I'm not just concerned with their thoughts and opinions . . . I'm concerned with their thoughts and opinions about me. Which means the idol of approval isn't really about people-worship but self-worship. The person I'm bowing down to is me. The person who consumes my thoughts is me. The person holding me captive is me. So maybe it's time I started singing a different song. Here's one that's been humming through my mind all morning:
Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face!
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.
Do you believe it? Do you believe that Jesus is so radiant that when we fix our eyes on Him, the things of earth—all those circumstances in which we're so concerned with our own dignity—will grow strangely dim? Do you believe HE can outshine you? Outshine your problems? Your reputation? Your insecurity?
I do. I do because I've experienced it. Turning your eyes upon Jesus is like jumping off the weathervane and dancing in the rain. It's cleansing and liberating and refreshing. It reminds us that Christ alone defines our worth. He defines it with beautiful declarations like, "If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation" (2 Cor. 5:17) and "to all . . . who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God" (John 1:12).
Unlike the world, Jesus defines our worth not by what we do but by what He has done on our behalf. He calls us things like holy, chosen, and dearly loved (Col. 3:12), not because we're so impressive but because He has rescued us from darkness and brought us into His kingdom by grace alone (Col. 1:13–14). His love becomes our identity. His love makes us lovely.
But Jesus doesn't just define our identity, He also defines our life. He gives us purpose, orienting us toward one thing only—Himself. In Galatians 1:10, Paul writes, "Am I now seeking the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ."
Are you beginning to see that the story is so much bigger than whether or not so-and-so likes you? This story that God is writing is as big as His love, as agonizing as a bloody cross, as powerful as an empty tomb, and as urgent as a coming King! Surely this new year that is reason for you and I to lift our eyes off ourselves, and together with the Psalmist David declare, "My eyes are ever toward the LORD" (Ps. 25:15)!
Do you struggle with living for the approval of other people? How have you experienced freedom by instead finding your worth in Christ?