I recently stood face-to-face with a truly pathetic part of myself. (After such a “compelling” opening line, you must be DYING to read on. But stick with me here. It’s not all bad.)
It all came to a head one week recently when a deafening silence fell across my world. Everything I did relating to work, friendships, parenting, service at church – every single thing I spent my time doing – was met with complete indifference. Emails I sent received no response. Blogs got zero comments. Assignments I completed and submitted gleaned zero response, not even as much as a, “Got it, thanks.” If I followed up with a phone call, it wasn’t answered or returned. We are not talking about a couple of instances, we are talking about what seemed at the time to be a worldwide conspiracy to make sure Emily gets zero feedback on anything. AT ALL.
Now you need to know that the sane part of me explained away this entire conspiracy theory…
“People are so busy right now, they don’t have time to worry about giving me feedback on this or that thing I did.”
“The office is crazy this time of year, so I’m sure they would call back if they could.”
“Kids are kids…they aren’t thinking about all the time and effort that went into meeting their needs today.”
Regardless of how loudly my sanity tried to reason with the paranoia, I was disheartened. I couldn’t help but conclude that if I wasn’t getting good feedback, that must mean I’m not that great. And something terrible must be around the corner for me since I’m just not good enough to glean any morsel of positivity from anywhere. I felt an ominous weight on my chest.
It was painful. And I was pitiful.
After processing all this, the realization hit… I was doubting my worth in my job, in friendships, in parenting, in future endeavors, and even as a believer, because I was not receiving enough approval to sustain my needy heart.
My reason for writing this raw reflection is certainly not because I am in any way proud of this fact. Quite the contrary. This realization began some deep and painful conversations with God, and with my husband (who has the patience of Job when I am processing things like this), about just how many daily decisions are made by my approval issues rather than by His Spirit.
Somehow, as I have ventured through forty-one years of life with the noble desire to be an exemplary person (for Christ’s glory, I’ve told myself), the foundational beliefs I developed about Jesus somehow got all entangled in mindsets that have nothing to do with Him.
This has been an earth-shattering realization, my friends… Keeping other people happy actually has no bearing on how much He loves me or values me?! What?! This is a truth I have heard a thousand times, but somehow my heart couldn’t really grasp it.
I’ve been quiet on the blog front, because I keep weighing my motives. I ask myself before posting anything:
“Am I writing this so other people will think I’m better than I really am?”
“Am I blogging so I can get an approval ‘fix’?”
Or even, “How self-indulgent is this whole blogging thing… does it do anything more than feed my worst self?!”
I still don’t have those answers. But I am convinced that He is trying to impress on me (and maybe I’m not the only one) that no one is okay just because someone else thinks we are okay. And, for that matter, we are not terrible because someone else thinks we’re terrible. We are walking around this massive planet for many, many important reasons other than gleaning attention or approval from other broken, human, flawed individuals like ourselves. Through our honest prayers, we can accomplish so much more than we ever could by some dog and pony show “for the people.”
This fresh realization of my ongoing struggle with approval addition has brought with it a wonderful reminder that our Creator will never make us feel belittled and forgotten. (Most of us need no help feeling that way on our own.) As I’ve admitted this area of weakness to myself, and to Him, and now to you, there has come a new freedom to revel in His unchanging love. As He has revealed Truth to the very core of my being – painful truth, I’ll admit – the pain that has come with this revelation is not an empty, panicky pain like that of needing an approval fix. It is a reminder that He sees me as I am, and desires healing in this area even more than I want it myself.
Jesus loves who we are – who we REALLY are. And His compassion flows all over us when we are willing to admit that we have been running to the wrong Source for fuel. His grace really is amazing. He covers our need with healing and replaces our insanity with joy, proving so powerfully that He is not merely a figment of our human imagination. We could not do this for ourselves.
So today, I embrace the relief that comes with not feeling the need to feed off the empty praise of anyone… Today, I simply sit at His feet and rest.