A college student tells me what her parents are pushing her into doing because, “it’s in your best interest.”
A wife talks about not feeling loved by her husband because she can’t keep the house as clean and orderly as he expects.
A youth minister tells about the loneliness he feels because his lead pastor is quick to let him know how “everything” he does could have been done better.
Are these stories about particular people? They’re actually common to a whole lot of people.
Been There Myself
I’ve not only heard lots of stories like these, I’ve lived them . . . and more. (Well, OK, I haven’t had my wife not love me because I didn’t keep the house clean enough. And I’ve never had any complaints about her housekeeping.)
I’ve been in times and places where I’ve worried about being “good enough” or “cool enough” to have the approval and acceptance of others. You know, basic self-esteem issues.
In a discussion with friends just the other night, I said that I’ve never wanted to go back to a previous time in my life for a “do-over.”
When asked why, I avoided answering because I didn’t want to get into a soul-searching discussion about not being in the cool crowd of jocks and cheerleaders.
College years weren’t a whole lot different. I just went to a college so small that it didn’t take a whole lot to know and be known by a lot of the other students, including jocks and cheerleaders.
Even when we grow up we still have a need to be esteemed.
In places of service as a minister I found myself working with pastors who knew who I was, but there were a couple who I’m pretty sure were happiest when I stayed out of sight so I was out of mind for them.
Now, when I hear people, especially ministering staff, talk about not being noticed, or getting affirmation, or acceptance, or approval, or encouragement, I cringe inside. To quote an ex-President of our time, “I feel their pain!”
I believe that our focus needs to be on the Great Physician to salve our wounds.
What I now know is that we all experience times of feeling that we don’t get other’s attention, approval, acceptance or affirmation. Life is more difficult without these assurances of being noticed and valuable to other people.
But, whaddyahavetodo to get that attention, etc? Be one of “them??” Do what’s good enough? Fit the mold? (Romans 12:2)
Maybe even the Church Mold?
HOLD IT RIGHT THERE!
How ‘bout if you focus on who God made you to be.
God made each of us to be unique. Different characteristics, qualities, interests, experiences . . . you know . . . unique.
So why do we feel obligated to be squeezed into the church mold in order to be affirmed, accepted . . . you know . . . feel good?
I’ve found that when my focus is on being the unique person God wants me to be, I’m less affected by loneliness and worry about the approval thing.
Not the license to run amok or intentionally offend. Rather the freedom to question the things that don’t sound right and the the freedom to say or do what might not get agreement from the church establishment.
I want others to like me. But I also know that God does love me, even when others are uncomfortable with differing opinions or viewpoints.
Guidelines for Being “God-Esteemed”
Here are some rules of thumb to know the difference between being more yourself that fits God’s desire for you, as opposed to living a life focused on getting the approval of others, in church or out.
- What do I understand God’s Word to say? — Be focused on growing an understanding of the practical application of God’s Word.
- Put your common sense in God’s hands — Wisdom = God’s direction of your common sense.
- WWJD? — Are you kidding!?? Jesus walked on water. So is that what I’m supposed to do? Let’s make it, “WWJWMTD?” What Would Jesus Want Me To Do with my unique characteristics and abilities.
- FROG — Focus your intentions to be Fully Reliant On God.
- Love the unlovely — For Jesus to love me when it feels like no one else does is so important to me, and that is the one thing Jesus does that I can do for others.
- Seek acceptance, approval, affirmation and attention — Allow God to be your Father and there will be no doubt about your validation.
- Be yourself because that’s who God wants you to be.
Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. 32 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”John 8:31b-32
Spiritual formations/youth/music/children’s minister — when you’re struggling though a lonely time, or a time when you’re not getting the stamp of approval you need, do a self-inventory to determine if your connection with God has been neglected.
And if you need an outside resource to bounce your struggles off of, drop me a line or give me a call. Let me search with you to find ways to be the unique person God designed you to be.