Are you after human approval or God’s approval? That is a loaded question. As human beings, it is natural for us to seek acceptance. We want to feel validated, understood, and liked by others. However, it is how much we value those opinions that carry weight.
A few years ago, I would have said “God’s approval matters more,” but I was not living that truth. I was in an extremely toxic headspace. I entered a relationship in which my identity and self-worth were tied to what someone else thought of me. I was under scrutiny from the clothes I wore to the goals I aspired to achieve. It took many months of soul-searching to realize that I needed to break free from that kind of blindness and seek the Lord’s face completely.
As a believer, it’s extremely important to remember who you belong to. A verse to ponder upon is Galatians 1:10 which says, “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.”
When we start caring too much about what others think, so much that it dictates our behaviors, our thoughts, or our actions…we are regarding human approval as higher than God’s. That can cause you to develop an idol in your life, which is the idol of human approval. An idol develops when you pursue that thing as more important than God or believe that thing can fulfill you more than Him.
Essentially, that idol leads you away from having a personal and meaningful relationship with Christ. It could be money, love or sex, a relationship, work, or in this case, human approval. Scripture tells us that we are to rid ourselves of anything that belongs to our earthly (sinful) nature, including idolatry because such things are not of God (Colossians 3:5).
Are you too busy seeking human approval? Here are three common ways that you might be doing so:
1. When you hesitate to pursue your goals
If you worry about pursuing an opportunity because there is someone in your life who doesn’t support it, then that is a problem. I see this in a lot in families who pressure their children to become doctors, lawyers or other high-salaried professionals when their children have no business pursuing those careers. I have also seen this among friends or romantic partners who do not support the goals of another person. Our purpose does not come from man, it comes from God. We should never belittle the dreams that He has given us to make others comfortable.
2. When you compromise your values to be accepted by a person or group
Is there anything in your life is that is holding you back from making God your priority? There are two common examples of this: work and relationships. At work, if you find yourself doing things you would never do just to “get ahead,” it’s worth looking at where the source of approval is coming from. This could look like doing whatever it takes to receive that promotion or raise, or missing church or skipping rest to work instead. Scripture instructs that we are to work for the Lord, and not for human masters (Colossians 3:23).
Relationships are another story. Maybe you promised yourself that you would practice sexual purity, but your partner isn’t really here for it. Or you have dreams and goals that your partner doesn’t deem as important (see #1). You should never have to give up something that is at the core of who you are to make your relationship work, especially when it glorifies the kingdom of God.
3. When you constantly feel the need to “perform” or to impress others
I see this a lot on social media, which is really just a highlight reel into the lives of others. Many of us only post what others will find as most interesting or will receive the most engagement. We only share what we think is “worthy.” We buy that designer item or pay for that expensive trip because “everyone” is doing so.
FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) hits us hard…even when we convince ourselves otherwise. Materialism is deeply rooted in human approval. Think about it: there would no need to keep buying or desiring things if we were not dwelling upon what we do and do not have. God could care less about our earthly possessions.
Human approval is difficult to escape, and it cannot be done by our strength alone. We can always find encouragement by the freedom that comes from knowing Christ. That is through choosing to seek a personal relationship with Him.
Prayer: God, forgive me for the times where I have placed human opinions above Your own. Help me to see that I am both fearfully and wonderfully made, regardless of what others think or say about me. Please rid me of anything that is leading me away from You and anything in my life that is jeopardizing my relationship with You. I thank and I praise You, Lord, knowing that You will provide a way out for me. In Jesus’ name, Amen.