Many of us struggle with the need for another person’s approval.
It can come so easily—this worrisome preoccupation with “what do they think of me?” Social media brings out this tendency further in us, causing many people to post only the best photos and videos of themselves, leaving others with the concern that their lack of posts or comments will be noticed. We remember—often feel scarred—by times we felt rejected or judged many years ago.
For many of us, the desire to impress other people and find value from their attention seems to be wired into the foundation of our being.
One could almost say that simply being human opens us to the temptation to look for our worth from other people rather than from God. Yet, there was one human on this earth who didn’t seem to suffer this temptation—or who at least, didn’t succumb to it.
It says in Scripture that Jesus was tempted in every way that we are, which includes our desire for approval. Yet, He presented daily with unshakeable confidence. This is despite the fact that his actions were causing many to disapprove of—and by that I mean hate—him.
But before many of us think that He just may not have cared, let’s get this straight, Jesus wanted to be liked.
Particularly, He wanted to known for who He was. When Jesus’ disciples began to understand who He was and said to Him, “We believe you came from God,” Jesus seemed to express a sigh of relief: “Do you finally believe?” (John 16:31).
Yes, Jesus wanted to be known and liked. But here’s the thing—He didn’t NEED it. Unlike many of us, he stood firm against the tendency to be preoccupied with the opinion of others.
Here are three main reasons He was able to do this:
1. Jesus Knew—and Liked—Who He Was
Jesus knew who he was. He knew was the son of God. And He liked himself. He didn’t walk around feeling incapable or self condemning, nor was He prideful, as pride often comes from a deep seated (and hidden) insecurity.
Jesus knew He had a valuable purpose. He was humble, yet He also knew His worth.
He “never considered equality with God as to be grasped” but was secure in his identity and role in this world. Therefore, when the winds of disapproval, misunderstanding and hatred blew His way, he was able to stand, solidly.
People who are immune to the need for validation have a sense of true security in themselves. They know they are worthy. And for the most part, they like who they are.
You see, we are not actually hurt by the negativity or neglect of others. We are hurt when we receive their behavior and then it triggers an—even small—insecure place within us. When that happens, we end up reading this message into their actions: “I’m not good enough.” That’s what we then say to ourselves.
But if like Jesus, we’re genuinely secure within, we don’t need to seek validation to make us feel valuable.
2. Jesus Focused on Pleasing Only God
Jesus had one goal in mind while on this earth and that was pleasing God. His singularly focused on what God wanted and how He would accomplish it. When someone is preoccupied with seeking God’s desires and carrying them out, they don’t have the concern or the time to focus on other people’s opinions.
On the contrary, when we are overly concerned with the others, we put them at the forefront and God to the side. And the more we do this, the more ingrained the habit becomes. Jesus, however, recognized that God alone had power and authority, and that
He alone was to be exalted.
Because Jesus was only concerned about pleasing God, He was only concerned with what HE thought of Him. He knew that only His opinion that mattered. He knew that God loved him and was pleased with Him—and that was enough.
3. Jesus Knew What Others Did Wasn’t About Him
Jesus said, “Out of the heart the mouth speaks” (Luke 6:45). Jesus was well aware that what someone says and how they act is a direct result of what’s going on inside them.
He knew that a person’s behavior had nothing do him, nor did it say anything about him.
A person’s behavior is a reflection of their inner world. This includes the perspective they have of life and other people based on what they learned in their past. When someone acts rudely, their behavior often comes from misconceptions and old wounds.
When someone is lost in their own world of busyness or life challenges, they may not give us as much attention. But here’s the thing, their actions come from them; they’re not about us.
It’s a distortion when we believe that how we are treated says something about who we are. In actuality, it says more about who they are.
Only The Creator Knows His Creation
While we often don’t view His ministry in this way, Jesus gives us a perfect example for how to avoid the need for approval. We ought to pay attention to, meditate on, and seek to follow his lead, as we do for other areas of living.
Of course, it’s not easy for us. The desire for approval from others is one of the most typical struggles in our human nature. Now let’s be clear, God designed us to feel good when someone compliments us.
There’s nothing wrong with wanting that. The problem comes when looking for affirmation goes from our desire to our preoccupation.
Fortunately, God doesn’t hold this common tendency against us. He is full of understanding and compassion, while guiding us gently to His thoughts and His truths.
It was Jesus’ unchallenged focus on God that solidified and maintained that sense of who he was. Not only is it unhealthy to need validation from others, it also doesn’t work.
Neglect leaves us more desperate for attention and any praise we do get only feels good temporarily. That’s because we were not designed to know ourselves through other people.
Rather, God is always calling us to shift our gaze back home, to Himself. Only He created us and knows us well enough to determine who we are. And only He sees clearly enough to speak the truth.
Simply, no person has the ability to ascribe us value or take it away. Our feelings may say otherwise – but they really are just feelings – no matter how strong they seem. We can only be defined by the One who created us. The more we truly absorb that, the more we practice gazing upon HIM as Jesus did, the more free we can begin to feel.