The trap of seeking our self-worth in something, anything, outside of the Lord is one that we all fall into at one time or another. The lure of success and popularity is strong. The desire to be part of a group, to fit in, to be recognized as special sinks its claws into us at a young age and rarely lets go. As believers, we know that our value is in who God says we are – His children (Galatians 3:26, John 1:12) – but we may still get caught up in the cycle of looking for approval from others. When we find ourselves in this unhealthy and sinful pattern, we need to take steps to change our behavior.
We can be blind to our own faults, so we must test our thoughts (2 Corinthians 10:15) and behaviors to determine if we are focused on the approval of the Lord or the approval from others. Each of us must allow the Holy Spirit to guide us and correct us as needed (John 16:13). The way that you seek approval will look differently from how I seek approval, so we each have to be alert for individual indications that we are headed down this negative path. Keep an eye out for some of these “red flags” that may be signs that you are looking for approval from the wrong source:
When we repeatedly check for how many “likes” and comments our posts receive, we may be seeking approval from people.
When we sacrifice personal time to get a project done early just to please our supervisor, we may be seeking approval from people.
When we repeatedly look for reassurance from our friends and family that they think our choices are good ones, we may be seeking approval from people.
When we fish for compliments and are jealous when we hear others be complimented, we may be seeking approval from people.
When an acquaintance makes inappropriate jokes and we stay silent but feel ashamed, we may be seeking approval from people.
What Does the Bible Say?
The Bible is clear that we are to seek our approval from God and not from people. Our Lord’s view of us is what matters, and He defines our worth. People are flawed and sinful and fickle. We will constantly be searching if we are looking for approval from man, but God, who does not change (Malachi 3:6, NIV), loves us fully. So much so that He sent His only Son to die for us. What other approval could we need?! Many Bible verses speak clearly on this topic, leaving no doubt that our worth is defined by our Heavenly Father, and seeking praise from people is not the path the Lord has for us.
“How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God?” (John 5:44, NIV).
“Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on Him God the Father has placed His seal of approval” (John 6:27, NIV).
“Peter and the other apostles replied: ‘We must obey God rather than human beings!’” (Acts 5:29, NIV).
“Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:58, NIV).
“And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Colossians 3:17, NIV).
“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving” (Colossians 3:23-24, NIV).
“Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ” (Galatians 1:10, NIV).
“Serve wholeheartedly as if you were serving the Lord, not people” (Ephesians 6:7, NIV).
“On the contrary, we speak as those approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel. We are not trying to please people but God, who tests our hearts” (1 Thessalonians 2:4, NIV).
“We were not looking for praise from people, not from you or anyone else, even though as apostles of Christ we could have asserted our authority” (1 Thessalonians 2:6, NIV).
What to Do About It?
Now that we have identified some of the ways that we might be seeking approval from others and we understand what the Bible clearly says about it, we can take steps to eliminate this behavior. There are three main things we can do to grow closer to the Lord as we work to please Him and not people:
To make changes, we must recognize the situations where we need the most help. We may need to bring in an accountability partner, remove social media from our phones, or make sure we pray immediately after receiving feedback or a compliment to offer our praise to the Lord and ground ourselves in the truth of His Word. As we grow in recognition of the areas in which we struggle the most, we can also begin to take preventive steps before specific situations arise to decrease the likelihood of falling into the approval trap.
After we recognize the areas where we are seeking approval from others, we need to repent. Begin by admitting it to the Lord, knowing that He offers forgiveness (1 John 1:9, NIV). Then ask Him for help to get out of the alluring trap of desiring praise from others. We know that the Lord is our help (Psalm 121:2, NIV) and will provide what we ask of Him (Matthew 7:7, NIV, John 14:13-14, NIV). While we may continue to be tempted to find our self-worth in what others say about us, we know that God always provides us a way to endure our temptations (1 Corinthians 10:13, NIV) so pray to Him and ask Him to provide a way out!
Intentionally begin your day by reading the Bible. Starting the day off with the Lord puts us on the right track from the beginning. When we have connected with God before anyone else, we are prioritizing Him and His view of us. Keeping the Lord first in your life will help you to seek His approval only. Reading some of the verses listed here can be a great reminder. Writing and displaying these biblical affirmations and truths where you will regularly see them is an easy way to take in the Word. Perhaps you want to put Post-it notes on your bathroom mirror or a small chalkboard next to the coffee pot. However you approach it, read biblical reminders of what God thinks about you and feel His love in your life! His approval of you, which has already been given, is the only approval that matters!
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Megan Moore is a military spouse and mom of 3 (through birth and adoption). A speech-language pathologist by training, she now spends her time moving around the country every couple of years. She is passionate about special needs, adoption, and ice cream.