They loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God. John 12:43
I grew up being a people-pleaser. I’ve derived much instant, but fleeting, gratification from those who’ve confirmed that I’m kind, smart, and successful. I dislike that I’ve craved this affirmation, but my annoyance hasn’t actually overridden my need. When I’ve felt bad about myself, it’s been my nature to seek out those who would make me feel better. Perversely, I’d now like to think that the arrogance of my adulthood has eliminated my childish need for affirmation, but my pride still relies on comparison to feel good about myself. Either way, I’m still so desperate for my ego to be stroked that I’ll get there any way I can.
Somewhere in our development, many of us have learned the pleasure of being praised. Human affirmation triggers a release of happy hormones in our brain and, like drugs, food, or sex, once we’ve experienced that euphoria, we want more. So, we repeat the behavior. Through repetition, we learn a habit and the behavior becomes compulsive. It’s now simply our nature to live for the affirmation of those around us. In this state, we cannot stand it if someone says an unkind word about us and we must act in a manner that causes others to praise us.
It’s not bad to want to be known as kind, attractive, or successful. Those things aren’t evil in themselves. This does become dysfunctional however, when our need for affirmation controls our decision making.
In today’s passage, we’re told that many believed in Jesus and wanted to follow him, but they couldn’t because they also desired the affirmation of the Pharisees. The Pharisees hated Jesus and thus, condemned anyone who followed him. Some, who otherwise would have followed Christ, sought the approval of the Pharisees more than the approval of God.
This is a life problem for many of us. We’re supposed to find our joy, meaning, and satisfaction in the father, but instead, we seek it in man. Craving human affirmation, we sacrifice ourselves on the altar of our own ego. This way leads only to misery and pain though, as man can never fill the void that only God can fill. If we truly want to know peace and joy, we must daily abandon our need for earthly affirmation and turn to the father, finding our purpose and meaning in him alone.