Galatians 1:10 Am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.
You may think that getting my name in the paper for my addiction would diminish my ego and concern over what the world thinks. If I am honest though, I have to admit that deep down, I still seek affirmation from others. Some of you will laugh in disbelief at this admission, as you find me contentious and difficult, but still, I am often motivated by the meaning I derive from pleasing people. Though I dislike this defect, when I am painfully candid, I can see the well-concealed motive of affirmation pulling at me constantly.
Affirmation manifests itself in various ways, masquerading often as positive personality traits. Going to the gym can be about discipline or it can be about wanting to look like I go to the gym. Being kind and compassionate can be about loving others or it can be about the need to make everyone like me. Writing a blog can be about personal growth and the desire to help others, or it can be about showing how far I have come in three years. Promoting the blog can be about spreading the message I believe in or it can become all about the numbers. The more readers, the better person I must be, right?
When I am obviously selfish, I am at least honest about serving myself. In my people pleasing mode, I pretend like your interests are important to me, but really, I am just using your high opinion of me to feel good about myself.
Make no mistake, affirmation is a drug. When we get it, we feel good and when we do not, we feel terrible. Praise from those around us is a high on which our brain feeds, often without realizing we are doing it. Like a drug, people pleasing can dominate our behavior, distracting us from God. As following God is never going to be popular in the eyes of the world, when faced with pleasing God or pleasing man, we will choose poorly if we are focused on our own affirmation.
It is of course, just another manifestation of my pride that drives me to seek affirmation from the world. I am always going to seek purpose and meaning somewhere. In my pride, I seek it in the immediate gratification of the praise of others. Whether it is a smile from someone of the opposite sex or approval from a superior at work, I seek purpose and meaning in the most obvious sources around me.
Paul, in today’s passage, said that this is not how we are to live. He insisted that we choose to find our meaning where we were created to find it. We were made to be fulfilled, not by the world, but by our relationship with God. God is the only one adequate to meet all of our life needs. When we pursue meaning and purpose in the world, we will always come to disappointment and pain, as the world is incapable of filling God’s role.
As this defective desire for worldly affirmation never completely dies, I must continually choose to turn my eyes from the world to find my purpose in God. As in all things, I must daily deny self and follow Christ.