Thursday, January 9, 2014

the day i stopped caring what other people think

Hi, my name is Elizabeth
and I am an approval addict.
I have spent my life caring way too much what other people think about me.
This addiction is the one thing I referred to in my previous post.  The one thing I have to break free from if I really want to step into all this year has for me.

An approval addict's greatest fear is this...
     having someone not approve of them.

It happened to me.
Last week I was hit hard by some disapproving words from some people I love and respect.
It came in the form of an email.
For you maybe it came in a face-to-face conversation or over the phone or from someone who overheard a conversation about you. 
For me, it felt like the worst thing...
and yet somehow it is becoming the best thing.

Taking those hits of disapproval was like taking arrows right in the heart.  I felt like I just might bleed out and die.  
Then something miraculous happened...I survived.  
The breath is still in my lungs.  
The blood still pulses through my veins.  
I am alive...and maybe more so than I had been before. 

When I don't receive approval I feel small and worthless.  
If I follow those feelings I wind up in a ball in the corner of my closet dying a slow death.  
If, instead, I follow Jesus I slowly stand up and pull the arrows out of my heart and watch immediate healing take place.  
I experience new life inside of me.

Last week I had the choice - follow the feelings or follow Jesus.
I am ashamed to say that in the past I have chosen to follow my feelings far too many times...chosen to feed my addiction and make decisions based on what will make others happy rather than what I believe is best.
This time was different.
This time my behaviors being called into question were ones I felt confident about.
This time I had poured prayer and wise counsel all over the decisions I was making.
This time I clearly saw a Savior hand reaching towards me and I clasped it tight and let it pull me back up on my feet.

I said to myself - Sometimes even an approval addict is willing to sacrifice approval for something she really believes in. 

And God said - Sometimes?  Really?  Sometimes?  The things you believe in...the things I have called you to do...they should always be more important than what someone else will think about you.

Man...he's always butting into my private conversations with myself.  Ouch.

And I really shouldn't be joking here y'all because this is serious business.
I had a moment.  You know...a my-life-will-be-forever-changed moment.

I suddenly came face-to-face with the real danger of being an approval addict.  If I didn't sacrifice my need for the approval of man I would be of no use as a servant of God.  Wow.  Talk about a painful reality.

How many times have I missed something God had for me because I was too focused on doing the things that would earn me the approval of man rather than the pleasure of God?

Now don't get me wrong...there are times in life when serving God will get you the approval of others.  That's great...but that can't be our motivation because...guess what?  There will be other times when serving God will leave you unapproved and unpopular by everyone else's standards.

Maybe you're an approval addict too.  Take a look and see if one or more of these 7 signs describe you...

  • You avoid conflict at. all. costs. {unless of course something threatens your approval and pounce!}
  • Anytime someone leaves you a message saying, 'Give me a call.  I have something to talk to you about,' you automatically assume it is about something you did wrong.
  • You state your opinions without really making them sound like opinions so you don't offend someone who might disagree with you.
  • You repeatedly refresh your social media accounts after you make a post to see how many 'likes' you get.
  • If an instagram post doesn't receive enough likes to go from a list of followers to an actual numerical value you feel like a failure. {see below - for some of you really popular people anything under 500 likes may be unacceptable!}
  • Compliments seem to be more important to your survival than food or air.
  • Receiving constructive criticism feels more like being stoned to death.

{not cool}

So the results are in and maybe you're an approval addict too.

If so, your worth, like mine, is found in the opinions of others instead of in the opinion of God.  When you begin making decisions based upon that assumption - that your worth is in others - you are in dangerous territory.  You are also setting yourself up for exhaustion.  You may be able to play the approval game and gain credibility and likability and all those good things that allow you to advance in life but you can only keep up that act for so long.  You will never make all the people happy all the time.
So let's stop trying.  What do you say?

From now on when God calls us to something let's be brave enough to forget about what everyone else is thinking and focus completely on pleasing Him.  
That is obedience.
That is surrender.
That is humility.
That is punching our own foolish pride in the face.
That is the freedom that comes from serving Christ alone.

God whispered something to me as I have pondered all of these things in my heart.  I want you to imagine him looking at you with grace-filled eyes and saying them to you too...
...if you think you’ve found success through the approval of man just watch and see what you can do when it’s my approval alone you seek.