When I look back over my years of ministry, I recognize that many of my aspirations, desires, and longings had the appearance of Kingdom advancement, but underneath lay hidden the desire of personal advancement. I have sought the approval of others far more than the approval of God.
Hi. My name is Rick Grover, and I am an approval addict. There. I said it.
When did I first discover I had a problem? When I realized I spent far more time wondering what people thought of me as a preacher than Jesus as the Savior. Did they like my sermon? Are they happy with my leadership? Were they receptive to my teaching in class?
The way out of a problem is first to accept there is a problem. I’ve known about my struggle for years, and I have made many mid-course corrections. But like the cat with nine lives, the approval seeker seems to keep appearing.
Are you afflicted with the malady of “me-centrism” as well? You might not look in a mirror and ponder who is the fairest of them all, but how many times do you check your Facebook feed to see if you’re tagged or to count your number of “friends”? How many selfies do you take per day? How many times have you checked your mailbox, email, Twitter, Instagram or Snapchat and been disappointed at how few letters, messages, tweets, or snaps you received?
In The Genesee Diary, Henri Nouwen wrote of his own approval addiction as he described his longing to be known by others:
When you keep going anxiously to the mailbox in the hope that someone “out there” has thought about you; when you keep pondering if and what your friends are thinking of you; when you keep having hidden desires to be a somewhat exceptional person; when you keep having fantasies about [people] mentioning your name; when you keep looking for special attention; when you keep hoping for more interesting work and more stimulating events—then you know that you haven’t even started to create a little place for God in your heart (64-65).
The only remedy to me-centrism is to take the “me” out of the center. We have to die to self in order that our true selves can begin to live (Luke 9:23). No longer do we think more highly of ourselves than we ought (Romans 12:3), or worry about what others think of us because we are pre-occupied with what God thinks of us.
He fills our longing to be accepted with His acceptance. He removes our insecurities and makes us secure. And every time the Accuser declares we are not good enough, smart enough, attractive enough, or loved enough, remember that truth destroys lies. “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” (1 John 3:1, NIV).
And His approval is all we need.