We never really outgrow the desire to be liked by others. We can be a grown adult with children and grandchildren, and still be concerned about whether people like us.
We don’t approach people and ask, “Do you like me?” That’s way too elementary school. Instead, we look for affirmation in other ways…
- “Did the boss compliment my work?”
- “How many likes did my last post get?”
- “Are people coming to me for advice?”
- “Did anyone retweet my last tweet?”
- “They didn’t say whether they liked it or not. What did I do wrong?”
- “How many comments did I get on that last post?”
- “Why didn’t they ask me to handle that job?”
- “No one’s commented on my profile picture. Should I change it?”
These are all ways of asking the question, “Do people like me?”
There’s nothing wrong with wanting affirmation. We all need to be affirmed at times. The problem is turning to public opinion for our affirmation. When you seek affirmation from public opinion…
- You will always be on an emotional roller coaster. It’s no news flash that public opinion changes…frequently. The thing that’s hot today is abandoned tomorrow. Today’s game-changer is tomorrow’s disappointment. What’s trending well now is not even a trend tomorrow. Affirmation based on public opinion will never be stable and secure.
- You will be tempted to become what others want you to be, rather than who you need to be. Everyone has an opinion about how you should look, sound, act, think, work, etc. But you were created as a unique, one-of-a-kind individual. You have a unique mixture of gifts, talents, and personality traits that set you apart from others. To deny who your are just to be who others want you to be is like painting over the Mona Lisa because someone thinks you should see her teeth when she smiles.
- You will never feel like you measure up. If public opinion is your source of affirmation, you’ll always feel like you’re letting someone down, because you can’t please everyone. No matter hard you try, there will be someone who disagrees with you and cause your affirmation to take a hit.
Let me say it again. There’s nothing wrong with wanting affirmation. The problem is looking for that affirmation in public opinion.
So where should we find our affirmation?
That’s where we need to take this to another level…
We need to find our affirmation, not in the changing winds of public opinion but in the bed rock of personal conviction.
In the book of 1 Timothy, Paul wrote to a young pastor (Timothy) who was having to battle a lot of public opinion. Many people were saying that Timothy was too young to be credible. Paul told Timothy not to worry about the public opinion, but instead to live out his personal convictions in his speech, his conduct, his love, his faith, and his purity. (1 Tim. 4:12) This is the kind of life will not be shaken by changing public opinion. This is the kind of life that stands strong and steady in the face vacillating public opinion. This is the kind of life that others will notice.
Do you look for affirmation in public opinion or personal conviction? Leave a comment and let us know both your victories and your struggles with this.
Copyright © 2014 Bret Legg
6 thoughts on “Do You Look For Affirmation in Public Opinion or Personal Conviction?”
I remember sending notes in elementary school with the “Do you like me?, with check yes or no boxes.” This seemed to make things so simple and often times we sent the note fairly confident about the answer. In elementary school, junior high (middle school), and high school there was not a lot of focus on the big picture of life. It was a myopic mini-society. Our value seemed to be based on our friends, grades, activities, school status, et cetera. When we leave high school and head out into the “real world” we still expect to be valued based on the same criteria with slight adjustments. School is where we learn this and it never really fully goes away.
Seeing the big picture with God is a daily or an almost minute-by-minute struggle. It is easy to get sucked back into placing our value on how others ‘grade” us or how we compare to coworkers, friends, other church members, and celebrities (don’t get me started on the Kardashians). The statement “I got passed over on the promotion, but that is okay because God loves me” is very hard to make sometimes.
I struggle with seeing myself as God sees me. It is hard to tune out everything and everyone who tries to contradict that, and harder to tune out my own “little picture” thoughts. Hopefully by studying the Bible and seeing more of the big picture that way, I can see God’s view of myself and focus on that.
For me, the easiest way for me to understand God’s unconditional love, is by looking at how I love my own children. Even during stages in their life where all they couldn’t take care of themselves, were constantly demanding, and had to have us clean up their messes…we still loved them. Even when our adult children (who can better take care of themselves) make decisions that we don’t like…we still love them. If we as flawed human parents can do this, how much more can God (the a perfect parent) do it. We can rest in that.
I worked in ministry for several years. After about seven years of constantly being criticized, I left ministry completely burned out and felt like I had no value whatsoever. I spent all those years trying to please people that were never going to be pleased. I had heard the phrase, “you can’t please everyone,” multiple times, but that’s hard to absorb when ALL you want to do is make people happy and appreciate your work. I realize now that I was just as guilty of doing wrong by wanting glory for myself instead of for God. If I had been more focused on pleasing Him and doing what He had called me to do, then perhaps that feeling would not have been so overwhelming. Not to say it wouldn’t have hurt, but certainly not as bad.
There’s a part of all of us that likes to be liked and approved of by others. As you’ve said, the problem comes when you “need” that and find yourself working for it. Ministry can suck you into that “performance” routine because we start off just wanting to help others for others sake. But it gradually shifts into helping others for our sake…and it’s a very subtle shift. It happened with the disciples, and it will happen with us too. It’s great that you recognize it. Many don’t. You still have huge contributions to make, no matter what arena you’re in.
great words Bret. Always puts back into focus for me… am I a workaholic because the job demands it, or am I workaholic because I still feel the need to be affirmed. Especially coming out of a culture of divorce, there’s always that thought that you’ve disappointed parents, your children, your friends. I just have to remind myself that my focus should be pleasing the Lord.
Demands of the job or demands of the ego. It’s not always easy to tell which is which. Especially when you work at something that’s important. Before we realize it, our focus has wondered off course. It happens. But as you’ve pointed out, the key is to catch it as soon as possible and refocus. Focus and refocus…and repeat. Keep it up.