Longing for Approval
Do you ever find yourself worried about what someone is thinking about you? Or nervous when talking to people? Have you ever done something just to get someone else's approval?
If you are honest with yourself, you have struggled with this at some point or another because all of us desire the approval of people. This is because we were all born with the inclination to regard man more than God. In other words, we are all sinners who desire to worship the creation over the creator.
Therefore, we want people to like us and to think highly of us. Now, there is nothing wrong with wanting people to like you, as no one wants to be disliked, but it is when we live for people’s approval that it becomes a problem. When you find that you are willing to sin to get approval and sin when you don’t get it, you have turned the approval of people into a lust.
What does turning approval into a lust mean? It means that you are treasuring the approval of people above God and His approval.
LUST FOR APPROVAL
Lusting for the approval of man has been something that I have struggled with immensely over the years. One specific way I struggle with this sin, is in the area of my speech. Due to heart surgery I had to have at a young age, I lose my train of thought really easily and recalling facts can sometimes feel impossible. I struggle with retaining information that I learn and reiterating it back to people. Because of this I tend to get nervous when I have to talk in front of people or in a group situation as I begin to think that I am going to sound incompetent. This desire to not sound incompetent quickly turns into a lust for the approval of man when I find myself completely consumed with what others will think of me, to the point that I sin in my heart against them if I don't feel I've gotten their approval. By God’s grace, I now see where this is a sinful attitude. Again, it’s not that there is anything wrong with wanting to be liked (no one wants to be disliked); it is when we live for being liked by others that it becomes a problem.
Living to be liked by others enslaves us to them and begins to determine what we will and will not do. Not only that, but it also turns people into a means to satisfy our own personal agendas.
"Whenever we bow down to people as avenues, they are not seen as humans to love but as objects that are to provide a resource that we so desperately crave. As a result people become avenues we turn into idols (Dr. Nicolas Ellen)."
This is a big problem, because God commands us to love God and to love others above all else. “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with al your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” (Luke 10: 27; Matthew 22:34-40; Mark 12:30-31). When we lust after people’s approval, we do not truly love them or God, as we should.
THE FEAR OF GOD
“Stop regarding man, whose breath of life is in his nostrils; for why should he be esteemed?” - Isaiah 2:22
At the root of our sin issue of lusting after people’s approval is that we fear man above God. It is sad how much we fear people at times when the Lord is the one we will have to give an account to in the end (Romans 14:12; 2 Corinthians 5:10). The Lord is the Holy Creator and Sustainer of the world, yet many times we fear people over God because our view of people is too big and our view of God is too small. Why should man be esteemed when “at any time man is nothing more than a nose full of breath (Paul Washer)?" In other Words, our life is in God’s hands, yet we fear man more. If we want to stop lusting after people’s approval, we must learn to fear God as we should.
What is the fear of God? Jerry Bridges gives two wonderful explanations:
1) “the indefinable mixture of reverence, fear, pleasure, joy and awe which fills our hearts when we realize who God is and what He has done for us.” 2) “To stand in reverential awe before [God’s] transcendent majesty and moral purity.”
And how do we grow to fear the Lord more and people less? We get to know who He is—His attributes and His character. Jerry Bridges puts it this way: “You grow in the fear of the Lord by gazing upon the beauty of His attributes and by seeking an ever-deepening relationship with Him”
“The fear of man brings a snare, but he who trusts in the LORD will be exalted.” - Proverbs 29:25
The Lord has grown me over the years in fearing Him over people by first, revealing this sin issue to me and then, by taking me out of my comfort zone a little by little each year causing me to depend on Him more. I know this area will never be fully perfected until I am home with Christ, as we all fight sin in this life, but I am thankful that by God’s grace, He continues to grows us and molds us into His image.
When you find yourself lusting after the approval of others, repent and ask the Lord to help you to love Him and others by growing you to fear Him more. If you have never done a study over the attributes of God we encourage you to do so as this is a great way to grow in the fear of the Lord, because you will never fear Him and love Him, if you do not first know Him.