People like to be affirmed. The hunger for approval has been proven to be a major factor in our lives. It is, for example, a major motivating force in the lives of actors and actresses, athletes, politicians, news reporters and commentators. After all, they live by and for ‘Approval Ratings.’ Their livelihood depends upon it. And often, unfortunately, so does their self-image and mental health as well.
And this hunger is not limited just to them. Most of us, if we are honest, hunger for approval. I understand it. As a pastor for over 40 years I am familiar with the desire and temptation to seek approval. As a husband for over 47 years, a father for over 45 years, and a grandfather for over 18 years I know the hunger – I am all too familiar with the magnetic pull of approval. I have a hunch you know it too.
And while this hunger is not entirely a bad thing it becomes harmful when it drives and dictates our actions. We begin to do things not because they are right or good but because they will, we think, gain us approval. And it’s not too long before we start praising and affirming ourselves to try to satiate the hunger and influence others to affirm us. Just witness the actions of many athletes after a great play or game, just listen to politicians defending their record or actors/actresses speaking out on issues even if they’re not informed or qualified or reporters and commentators reasoning illogically – all in order to gain the approval of whomever is important. (Even now I wince at the thought of how many times I might have consciously or unconsciously softened – or strengthened – some words to gain or keep the approval of leaders or friends.)
Perhaps that’s why Proverbs 27:2 jumped out at me the other day. “Let someone else praise you, and not your own mouth; an outsider, and not your own lips.” Or as Eugene Peterson put is in The Message “Don’t call attention to yourself; let others do that for you.” Granted, these are hard words to live by. It’s tough to fight off the approval hunger. But there is a way – focus on Jesus. Then good news is that He has already affirmed our worth, already demonstrated His approval – He did it from a cross. For me, that’s the only approval that really counts. And I already have it! And so do you. This already-gained approval can drive us to please Him. We please Him not because we want His approval but because we already have it. And when we do so we’ll experience this approval one more time – we will receive it personally: “‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’” (Matthew 25:23)
Well done – from Jesus. What other approval do we need? His alone satiates our hunger. Forever. Why not accept His approval?