“And I saw that all toil and all achievement spring from one person’s envy of another. But this, too, is meaningless – like chasing the wind.” – Ecclesiastes 4:4
Our culture constantly feeds us with messages on how to emulate our neighbor (for good works) and identify ourselves in the world? And this deluge of messages has us wondering whether we measure up or not. ¿Pues, eso es loco, no? Especially since the world’s version of identity is a far cry from who God designed us to be. An insatiable craving for approval is an intimation of our identity with the world.
I’ll be the first to admit that ‘works’ formed a good part of my life before. Ticking all the milestones to disprove naysayers and doom prophets. In retrospect, this was all meaningless. Chasing the wind! Whether in the work place, school, religious institutions, or even social media, people are constantly vying for approval and commendation. Today, social media heightens our awareness of the watching world. We can attest to millions and millions of people relentlessly scrolling their feeds, playing ‘mirror mirror on the wall’.
Everyone has a different reason yet common motivation. Our society is governed by ‘self’ and tuned into WIFM (What’s In it For Me). Sans judgment, whatever one’s reason, let’s take care not to perform so that we may be ‘approved’ by man. It’s so easy to get roped into popularity rankings and false validation. From a business point of view, I get it! I have a full appreciation of the demands from outputs, impressions, reach and all those other objectives. However, it’s tragically easy to get caught up in the game and simply spiral, only to end up stumping one’s authenticity and personal creativity.
As Rick Warren puts it, “if you live for the approval of others, you will die by their rejection.” And there’s not a life I don’t know that has not been touched by rejection. It was certainly a reality for Jesus too. However, He remained unwilling to perform for acceptance. He didn’t’ give into His temptation in the wilderness and neither should we. In our daily walk, we face similar temptation, don’t we? All our attributes and accolades got us in the “Prove it! Post it!” mode. In doing so, we fall in to people pleasing and lose our true self. This is dangerous, since the more we seek approval from man, the more we miss out on what pleases God.
¡Oye! I’m not saying that you shouldn’t apply yourself with great diligence. Do excel academically, give your best at work, clinch that business deal, work solidly at the gym, put your best forward on social media, and beyond. The heart of the issue is the heart. Do we apply ourselves out of the heart’s expectation to be praised and commended, and have thanks given to us by mere mortals?
Ultimately, we perform for the audience of One, our Creator. Personally, I try to pause and reflect on this often, call it my acid test for authenticity. This draws me back to Jesus’ main theme of teaching, motives of the heart. The new age has mimicked this with the phrase ‘living with intention’. When we’re genuinely cognizant of why we do what we do, we’ll be better equipped to guard against the validation and approval game.The problem with status and worldly success is this: the very things that seemingly elevate our image are the same things that imprison us with emptiness, exhaustion and pain. Entonces, may love rule our hearts and may we work as for the Lord. Then in this way, whatever we do, we will be aligned to the heart of God.
It’s always good to know that followers of the Way need never seek the approval of others because God already approves of her/him. Nothing can separate us from His love. Nothing! Nada! We can’t work for it. We can’t create it. We can’t buy it. As a child of God, we freely accept His approval of us. He says that we are His masterpiece, fearfully and wonderfully made.
Musings du jour:
“All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right.” – 2 Timothy 3:16
“Don’t copy the behavior and customs of the world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.” – Romans 12:2
“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. – Galatians 1:10
“For the Kingdom of God is not a matter of what we eat or drink, but of living a life of goodness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. If you serve Christ with this attitude, you will please God, and others will approve of you, too. So let us aim for harmony and try to build each other up.” – Romans 14:17-19