Seek Approval From Others

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)

Why do we work for the approval of others?

One reason is that the results are immediate.
Irrational fathers and nazi English teachers aside, it’s easy to earn acceptance from others. The recipe is simple: Tell them what they want to hear, laugh at their jokes, and agree with everything. Avoid conflict, neglect some details if they are too prickly, never correct.

Lies become “white” and our friends become many.

Of course, these friendships are shallow. They don’t last and neither are they satisfying.

Our craving for acceptance comes from corruption of our need for community. We are made for relationships, we are better together! But we need true connections not a comfortable crowd. Sugar is not sustenance. The health of our relationships is nurished by the meat of honesty and trust.

We were also created for significance, everyone matters because God created all of us to make a difference. There are no second string scrubs on God’s “team.” True significance only comes from serving. Sin twists our desire into a close counterfeit, which leads to seeking significance in the approval of others.

Seeking approval from people never ends. It’s a pit that’s never filled and beast that’s always hungry. The mad dash on the hamster wheel leaves us feeling isolated and insignificant.

Yes, we must do whatever we can to be at peace with everyone we know.
Yes, we must live as salt and light, and impact others for Jesus.
Yes, we must become all things to all people with the hope that we might “win” some.

But only after we’ve loved God first. And most.

let your gentleness be evident to all

There are some verses we love because we already do them well. We remember these scriptures, and when we are humble, we thank God for his blessings.

Some teachings we hate, because they challenge the very core of our brokenness–time and time again. When we are humble, we ask God for his strength. For me, Philippians 4:5 falls into this second class:

“Let your gentleness be evident to all.”

Some people are naturally gentle, sometimes I envy them, because I am not. My friends wouldn’t call me diplomatic. When I chose against humility, my confidence turns into arrogance–and gentleness flees the scene.

What hope do I have to change? How can I transform and renew my mind to become more like Christ? The context provides every clue we need:

Joy leads to gentleness. Anytime we are feeling less than joyful, gentleness begins to disappear. The springboard into joy is thankfulness. There is so much we can be thankful for! The resulting joy makes it easier to be gentle.

God’s presence leads to gentleness. When we focus on our own strength, we forget God. Our desire for control–to set the world “right” in our eyes–leads to forcefulness rather than gentleness. When we surrender our strengths, submitting them to God’s purposes, gentleness abounds because our efforts are more about faithfulness to the God who is near.

Peace leads to gentleness. When we are anxious, our fear makes it difficult to be gentle with others. Prayer releases this pressure into God’s hands.

When I fail to be gentle–with everyone–its usually a breakdown in one of these areas, and I reflect on the following:

  • Have I lost my joy?
  • Am I still focused on God?
  • Have I lost my peace?

 

Trust: A Conversation with my oldest son, Max

After church last weekend, I asked my oldest, “What did you talk about at church today?”

He’s 11 … so I want to have the appropriate expectations for his response.

More importantly, he’s a human, so I don’t want church to become a meaningless ritual. My goal: I want our conversations to be as natural as possible. The last thing I want is for him to learn how to regurgitate all the right Christian answers because I’m forcing questions down his throat.

He was quiet for a moment … about to give up and say “I don’t remember.” And then, in the last instant he says triumphantly, “TRUST! We talked about trust!”

It was my turn to be quiet, and then I ask, “Awesome. So what is the definition of trust?”

It was the right question, even though I didn’t have an answer—I didn’t have a definition, I had examples of trust, but not the essence of it. However…

I’m fine with this. I don’t need to look like I have all the answers—I’d rather have as many answers as possible and be honest about my ignorance rather than working hard to keep up the appearance that I Know Everything.

I don’t only ask a question if I have the answer…if Max didn’t have anything I was ready to say, “I’m not sure either… lemme do some thinking and I’ll get back to you.”

Max responded, “I don’t remember, all I remember is that we talked about trust…”

In that moment I came up with an answer… or, as I choose to view it, God gave me an answer. If he gives us words before our persecutors, then surely he gives us words when we stand before our children.

So I say, “Trust means giving away control. Anytime you trust something, you are letting it have control over some area of your life.”

He was wearing his favorite shirt, so I continue, “What are you trusting that shirt to do? Why do you wear it?”

“I’m trusting it to keep me warm. And it would be weird for me to be at school without a shirt.” Giggles ensue, as he pictures himself walking around school without a shirt…

“What do you trust your Football coach with?”

“…”

So I said, “You trust him with your time … and you trust him to teach you football … and to make your team into a good team… And you trust that it will be fun. Does this make sense?”

“Yea.”

It comes our quiet, slow. It was the cadence of new understanding, new possibilities, new connections…

“So when it comes to God, why is trust important? Why would they talk about trust at church?”

“I’m not sure.”

The moment was over. So I said the only possible response. “That’s ok. At least we know what trust is. What is trust?”

“When you give something control.”

“Awesome, how many times did you fart in church today….?”

 

Bearing burdens

Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. (Galatians 6:2)

I recently had a great conversation with a close friend. Beyond just catching up, we were able to talk about important stuff in our lives. Afterwards, took some time to consider why our friendship feels safe.

We can share significantly and authentically. It’s not easy, but we’ve learned to risk and share something personal, even if it’s raw. We can talk about doubts, failures, and fears. We aren’t created to handle life alone.

We both take time to listen. Healthy relationships ought to be a two way street, a safe place where both people share their burdens with one another.

We’re in prayer for one another. When it comes to burdens, both sharing and bearing, I have found prayer to be powerful in this way: when I pray about my issues, I know what I can talk about. When I pray for others, I’m asking God to intervene.

We are slow with advice. I’ve found that most burdens need to simply be shared, not solved. They aren’t complex problems that need an answer. Sometimes we need perspective and advice, but for the most difficult issues, we need support. When a burden is shared, nothing short circuits comfort faster than a cliché.

BIBLE STUDY DISCUSSION QUESTIONS
With your closest relationships, what are all the ways you express your love?

With your closest relationships, do you spend more time talking about your problems or more time listening? How could either extreme short circuit the possibility of having a close relationship?

Are you facing something big in your life that you are refusing to share with another person? What makes it difficult for you to open up?