Because it feels that way sometimes, doesn’t it? Or maybe a lot of the time?
Those who read my blog hopefully recognize it for its openness and honesty. I feel compelled to write about something now which is sort of messy. I’m opening myself up here and hopefully some of you will feel led to open yourselves up a bit with some comments as well.
Here goes … I struggle with an addiction to the need for approval / affirmation. There – I said it! But, do you want to know the really messy part? I have seen this in myself a lot more since I have been on a serious faith journey than I did before. Now, some folks may say that is just because I am now more self-aware but I don’t think so. I think it instead comes from my own inability to admit to my brokenness and my lack of “perfection.” I guess that pride is largely at the root of it.
When I was younger, in school and college, I never struggled with peer pressure. I sort of marched to the beat of my own drummer. I was usually a reasonably well behaved kid and young man and I tended to not go along with the crowd. I was comfortable with that. I was comfortable inside my own skin. I was okay being who I was and I really didn’t feel this need for approval or affirmation from others.
But, since I have been on a serious faith journey, I have struggled with that need to know that I am doing okay. There’s this sense of “Am I doing this right?” which needs to be fed that then feeds into a “Please tell me I’m doing this right!” plea. I really don’t like that. I feel like the little kid performing a new trick or stunt, nervously and repetitively asking their parents “Mom! Dad! How am I doing? Huh? Huh? How am I doing?”
We talk a lot about freedom in Christ and I have written a lot about trying to get rid of my “self” but yet this need for approval seems to never leave me. On an intellectual and theological level, I understand the concept of my worth coming from God, not man. And I absolutely love that because it does hearken back to my days of marching to the beat of a different drummer and being completely comfortable with that.
But the deeper I get into spirituality, it seems the more I crave affirmation. And I expected it to be the other way around!
And, to make matters worse, the further I go on my faith journey, the more I want to question things, the more I want to push the envelope in my theology and beliefs, the more I want to fight injustice, the more I want to give grace, and the more I demand grace. But, unfortunately, the more I demand affirmation and acceptance from man rather than seeking it from God. Will I ever be able to live on God’s affirmation and acceptance alone?
(NOTE: The following is a DIGRESSION but read it any way if you wish.)
I was meeting last week with some friends from church when one commented that she really doesn’t “get” all the lingo that we tend to toss around as church folk. My how I loved hearing her say that! One statement she picked on was how often we say something that sounds like “I love seeing the Jesus in you!” I’ve said it many a time myself. But, as my friend said, “I don’t know what that means.” And, you know, I wonder, too, what we mean by that. It seems to be something we say which affirms another believers’ need for approval and affirmation. But, really, what do we mean by it? Are we implying that the only reason a non-believer (who would presumably not have any Jesus in them) would do something good is because of some self-serving interest? Do we really believe that? Part of me at points has wanted to believe that the only non-self-serving good things people do are of Jesus. But, is that really true? I don’t know. I am not 100% certain of that.
(END OF DIGRESSION)
I’d love to hear what you have seen happen to your need for approval over the years, especially before and after your faith journey. Has your need for approval decreased since finding freedom in Christ (which seems to be the way it should work) or have you seen it stay the same or even increase?
If you’ve seen it decrease, I really want to hear from you and hear what that has been like. (I will assume you’ll be doing some proper reflection and introspection on this and not just giving the typical “churchy” answer that would be accepted, and expected, by fellow believers.)
If you’ve seen your need for approval increase, I’d love to hear from you as well. For one thing, I will simply feel affirmation if you tell me your story. And affirmation seems to be what I am seeking. But, beyond that, I pose the question to you as well: Will you ever be able to live on God’s acceptance and affirmation alone? Are we really capable of that? Really really really?
Thanks for your honesty and input. Comment away!