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My Name is Rick Grover, and I Am an Approval Addict

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).

Ouch.

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.

Posted by Rick Grover, Lead Pastor with

I’m Sorry. Please Forgive Me.

Last night my daughter, Anna, came home and told me I shared some information with someone that she didn’t want shared. In my mind, it really wasn’t a big deal. Come to find out, it was to her. When she delivered this news of accusation, I found myself immediately getting on the defensive, and rather than accept that I was wrong, I tried to prove I was right. Call me a slow learner.

When you step back and look at how you handle conflict, do you find yourself jumping into attack mode, defense mode, or competition mode, all to protect yourself, your inner sense of self-justification, or your “rights”? I do.

The late Henri Nouwen once described how “feathered friends” taught him some significant lessons on his use of defense mechanisms for self-protection or to get his own way (The Genesee Diary, 108).

For example, the Killdeer is a bird that simulates injury in order to pull your attention away from her nest which she builds on a sandy place. How many times do we try to divert people’s attention away from the real issue by playing on the sympathies of others? We simulate in order to sidestep: “Yes, I know you think I let you down by not showing up the other day, but you don’t understand what happened to me yesterday.”

The Cowbird lays her eggs in another bird’s nest to let them do the brooding, and then she does the raising once hatched. This is where we put the monkey on someone else’s back in order to avoid responsibility: “No, this problem isn’t mine. Look at what she’s done to me.”

The Oriole mimics the sounds of more dangerous birds to keep the enemies away. We could call this the intimidation tactic: “I sound tough. I sound smart. I can rip you to shreds verbally. I can out-talk, out-smart, and out-do you, so you’d better leave me alone!”

The Red-winged blackbird screams so loud overhead that you get tired of her noise and leave the area she has claimed as her own. This is the shouting method: “I’ll keep yelling at you at the top of my lungs because I’m right, you’re wrong, and eventually you’ll give up!”

Fortunately, I didn’t use any of these defense mechanisms on Anna. I started to, because my default mode is self-preservation. I want to protect my ego, pride, and sense of self-worth. But what I continue to learn from Jesus is that the more I die to self, the more I rise to self-fulfillment.

So, what did I say to Anna? The five words that will help grow any relationship—when they are spoken from the heart: “I’m sorry. Please forgive me.”

I challenge you to center your relationships on seeking to understand rather than defending your pride. Follow the Apostle Paul’s prescription to “look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Philippians 2:4, ESV).

Posted by Rick Grover, Lead Pastor with

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