Accepted, Affirmed, Approved

Susan Narjala   |   May 15, 2015 

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We had a little friend over to play with my kids recently. While they were knee deep in Legos, I heard Sonny Boy belting out his current favourite song: “Everything is awesome. Everything is cool when you’re part of a team. Eeeverything is AWESOOOOME!”

Then, I overheard some accusations being made: the singer’s vocal talent was called into question by the friend. It took less than 33 seconds for the complaint to be delivered to me:

“Mama, so-and-so says I’m not a good singer,” Sonny Boy said, in a shaky, I’m-not-going-to-cry voice.

“Well,” I said in what I hoped was a wise, motherly way, “what matters is what you believe about yourself and not what anyone else says about you.” That seemed to hold the waterfall that was on the verge of bursting from tiny, hurt eyes.

Try to apply those same words of wisdom to my life, and it’s somewhat less successful.

People’s opinions have always meant too much to me. I don’t know how to get off the phone with a telemarketer for fear they may feel bad. I am likely to invite door-to-door salespeople in for lemonade. I check my rearview mirror to see if the driver behind me wants me to speed up or slow down.

Yup, I’m a self-confessed people pleaser. It’s not a label I wear proudly. I have a ridiculous need to prove my worth to others, to be “liked” in the real and virtual worlds. I stay clear of conflict like it’s the smallpox virus. I am the lead role in a play called ‘Hello, I’m Always Nice.’ Except the play never ends. And the lead actor is depleted and often resentful.

I don’t mean to sound cutesy or hide behind a sense of humour (a well-worn recourse for people pleasers when they want to speak up). The Bible is pretty clear when Paul says,

"If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ" (Galatians 1:10).

When you live to please others, God becomes a bystander. You waffle in your beliefs because you fear offending someone. When you play to the galleries, you let down the most important people in your life. You’re riddled by guilt as, no matter how hard you try, you can’t please everyone all the time.

I’m not advocating that you never do anything out of duty or obligation. If you have to make an appearance at Uncle Joe’s 82nd birthday celebration which is about as fun as a root canal, then so be it. We are called to be the hands and feet of Jesus, His compassionate eyes and listening ears -- to show up and be a blessing.

But fulfilling obligations is different from seeking approval. It’s really about the intention of our actions. The heart of the matter is a matter of the heart.

I’m no psychologist, but like most addictions, approval junkies may not kick the habit from the get-go. It starts with acknowledging the craving: Hello, my name is Susan and I’m an approval addict (this is starting to sound like the AA meetings in the movies). It involves stopping to check the “why?” of my actions. Am I doing something to bless someone or so I create a certain image? Is guilt the motivating factor for my action? Am I doing this to please God or to please people? (Not that the two are always mutually exclusive.)

Much of my need for approval comes from self-doubt. And the only way to counter insecurity? Looking into eyes of One who knit me together in my mother’s womb. It’s the only place where I’m 100% accepted even if I got an F on the report card this semester. He wants from me a broken heart and a contrite spirit – not a perfect score or perfect home or even a perfectly pleasant personality.

My prayer is simple: "Forgive me of my need for human approval. Quiet me with your acceptance."

I cannot place the burden of affirmation on others. Because people are… well, people. Affirmation will be overlooked, approval forgotten and acceptance is, at best, temporary.

That’s when I go running back to Jesus. That’s where I should have started in the first place. It’s not about pleasing people. It’s about pursuing God. It’s not about perfectionism. It’s about purposeful living. The only affirmation I need is from my Heavenly Father. That’s when everything will be awesome. Because I’m part of God’s team.

 

Photo credit: Got Credit

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When she's not smuggling chocolate past her kids or drinking gallons of coffee, Susan Narjala can be found writing, baking and (thinking about) working out. She grew up in Chennai, lived in Portland, Oregon, for the last ten years and is now back in India with her family. She finds nuggets of humour in the everyday, and writes about it on on her blog, www.susannarjala.com

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5 comments on “Accepted, Affirmed, Approved”

  1. Very encouraging, I thought I was the only person around with this stuff. Thanks for the post. God bless you

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