So I ran across this video below on youtube a few weeks ago and it really got me thinking. It really brings new meaning to the phrase “fear of man”. Now, I don’t mean fear of man as in “I’m afraid of the bad guy”, I’m talking about where we do something (or don’t do something) because we fear our fellow man’s reaction.
It’s a constant struggle for many of us, especially if you are like me and have a high “S” personality (DISC profile). What it boils down to is that we as humans are wired with this “herd” mentality. We all like to be accepted by others, no one likes to feel left out. We were created to be social creatures. Watch the video below and you’ll see what I mean:
It’s amazing how the results change when the test person didn’t have to fear the other’s reaction, right? I’d like to think that I would have acted differently in those situations, but to be honest I probably would have done the same thing!
But what is so wrong about wanting someone else’s approval? Nothing! It’s only wrong if you become addicted to it. Take food, for example. There’s nothing wrong with eating. But some people crave food to the point where they are controlled by it. An addiction is taking a normal appetite and corrupting it to where it controls you.
But how do you know whether its just a healthy appetite or an addition? Here are 3 signs you might be an approval addict:
You take criticism personally. If this is you, there is no such thing as “constructive criticism”. It’s hard to move past negative comments. You may have heard of the author and speaker Jon Acuff. He’s written several great books and I had the privilege of hearing him speak last year. One of the things he said was so hard for him was reading the reviews of his own books on Amazon. I just checked and his books are still averaging about 4.5 out of 5 stars. But he actually got to the point where he was obsessing over the rare, occasional negative review and forgetting about all the positive reviews. That, my friends, is a sure sign of approval addiction. He eventually realized how ridiculous it was to let these “haters” get inside his head and decided instead to glean encouragement from the positive reviews to help focus on the task at hand. What I learned from this is that we need to decide to either learn from or ignore criticizing comments.
You fear rejection. This is probably one of the hardest things for us humans to overcome. Fear of rejection is paralyzing and can force us into making all kinds of bad decisions that we wouldn’t have made otherwise. There’s a quote from Dita von Tesse that I like: “You could be the ripest, juiciest peach in the world and there’s still going be someone that hates peaches.” You might as well come to grips with it, not everyone is going to like you. And that’s OK. Don’t try to become someone else or be something you’re not.
You have a hard time saying “no”. We’ve all been there haven’t we? You just agreed to do something even though you didn’t really have time for it because you were afraid of what the other person would think of you if you said no. Now don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of times in life where we have to lay aside what we want to do and do something that will benefit others. But we need keep this in balance and prioritize our time. Even Jesus said no occasionally (see John 11:1-6 for one example) because He was focused on doing His Father’s work. Let’s not be like the stray dog at a whistler’s convention.
Now before you start feeling all rebellious and thinking “I’m tired of people telling me what to do, it’s time to put the foot down!”, let me remind you that there are also right motives to seeking other’s approval. We need to examine the intentions behind our actions. In Romans 12:18, Paul tells us to try to live peaceably with each other. Ephesians 5:21 he tells us to submit to one another. And in 1 Corinthians 9, Paul talks about how he gave up some of his rights for the sake of the brotherhood. If any of these are your intentions behind doing or not doing something, then you are not an approval addict. An approval addict always has selfish motives: How will this make me look? How can I benefit from this? What’s in it for me?
I am challenged by Paul’s attitude in Galatians 1:10: “Obviously, I’m not trying to win the approval of people, but of God. If pleasing people were my goal, I would not be Christ’s servant.” (NLT) Being a servant of Christ often forces us to make decisions that might not mesh well with popular opinion. Let’s be light to those around us and take a stand for truth. Live as though God’s opinion is the only one that matters!