A while back I was driving away from my counselors office (yes, I see a counselor, cause I got issues….) and it hit me like a 2×4 across the face, “I am such an approval junkie.” Just like an addict has to get their next fix of their substance of choice, I realized that I often am looking for my next fix of a compliment or an accolade. This was the topic of conversation with my counselor that day and through out the entire session internally I resisted coming to the place where I could admit it. Yet, as I was driving away I could no longer deny what I knew in my heart to be true.
In what I do as a pastor, a significant part of my time is spent with people or up in front of people. Being around, leading and teaching people is something that I love to do, however, there is a dark side to it. With my job comes the responsibility of participating in the shaping and molding of people’s hearts and lives. And when they appreciate the work that you do and the way that you have impacted them, they often tell you.
For me, this gets scary when I find that I need those words and comments in order to validate who I am. It becomes very easy to live for and be motivated by receiving them. Once those words and comments start to come in, it is as though there is this constant itch in my soul that can never be scratched enough. With every encouraging word there is a sinking feeling, “Will that be the last? Will there ever be another?” Every time I step off the platform there is the thought, “Will anyone tell me that my teaching was any good?” There then develops this deep sense of anxiety that I am a nobody unless people around me tell me that I am a somebody. There is this voice that repeats over and over in my head, “I just need people to tell me I’m okay.”
But at the root of my anxiety is unbelief.
I have come to realize that often times the last thing I need is another pat on the back, complement or “atta boy.” Cause what I really need to believe deep in my soul that God truly does delight in me, and it’s not because of my performance, but simply because I am His. I have been conceived by Him, made by Him, redeemed by Him and unconditionally loved by Him, just because I am His. When this reality sinks deep in my heart, when I truly believe this, it gives me a whole new capacity to love others. Because now, I am not looking to others to get my next “fix,” but I can go to people and pass along to them what has already been given to me.
Over time, the more we turn from the our need for approval from other and turn to God knowing that His love and delight is secure, and the more we rest in His love, the more our lives will be shaped and formed into the likeness of His son Jesus. Resting in the love of the Father is the cure for our deep-rooted anxiety. Jesus says in Matthew 11, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”