Losing approval addiction and gain security
This past week we have taken Clem to full time pre primary for the first time.
He does not know any of the kids in his class. One of the questions you cant help but ask as a parent is, have you made any friends.
Really you are asking, is there anyone in your class that approves of you? That likes you?
In this church we have a wide range of people, and I reckon you can tell a lot about someone by what their response is to this question.
Did you enjoy high school?
It is in high school that that question do you have any friends, is really important.
I would have to say for me, I did not like my time at high school at all, and I don’t keep in touch with any of my friends there.
My sister Cherie however has life long friends there, and she went back to the ten year reunion and all the rest.
I would guess that there would be people here this morning that still regret those years spent in that way. Maybe even people that harbour pain over rejection, over disapproval from people. There is a condition or a state that some people find themselves in which could be called a Hunger for Approval
Most of us want to be noticed, appreciated, respected, and loved. We want it from our friends and our parents. We especially want this approval from our dad.
When that approval does not come, or is slow to come, it can be like a
huge vacuum in our centre – the place inside us that aches for a word of affirmation, a kind word, a gentle smile, or a pleased look.
One of my good friends is a Pastor, and his dad would very rarely give out praise. In fact for him an a was not good enough on the report card, it needed to be an A plus. And even then, approval was only temporary and short.
As a consequence my friend is a workaholic, driven person, always looking to succeed, always wanting not just approval but for people to acknowledge him.
That is one way approval addiction can drive us, to high achievement.
Another way lack of approval in our formative years can affect us is that we search for a substitute. Particularly in girls the absence of this approval from a loving father can result in a search for love from others – sometimes in all the wrong places and in all the wrong ways. In boys this absence of approval can lead to anger.
We get older, we get out of high school, and a lot of people are very happy to leave that microcosm of intense pressure. But still you might find yourself
hungry, seeking approval, wanting affirmation, loving the applause, thirsty for acceptance.
Lets think about some balance here, Approval is not a bad thing to desire.
Jesus sought the approval of His father, and obeyed him. IN the story of the Baptism of Jesus, you can find it in the gospel of Mark chapter one, Jesus went and got baptized,
9 One day Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee, and he was baptized by John in the Jordan River. 10And when Jesus came up out of the water, he saw the heavens split open and the Holy Spirit descending like a dove on him. 11And a voice came from heaven saying, "You are my beloved Son, and I am fully pleased with you."
This is my son! I’m proud of him. Who among us does not resonate to the sounds of these words!
We want our fathers to be proud of us! Jesus had the Father God’s approval – no question about it.
But this hunger for approval can also have its negative effects on our lives, when it becomes an addiction. I was visiting with a friend this week, a great guy, but he is really struggling with his addictions. I went round his place about 10am, and he said to me, Mark do you mind if I have a beer, no problem I said, its about beer o clock. He proceeded to down three full strength beers, all before 12 noon. He also smoked some drugs and cigarettes. He has a gaping whole in his life which needs filling. Strange thing is I don’t think the problem is beer or cigarettes, or marijuana. The problem is approval, His father died when this man was 7. His mother had a heart attack and his brother committed suicide. Little wonder then that he wanted desperately to fill that vacuum.
But although you may not have those issues, many of us may sense a unhealthy need for approval. This will come from a deeply rooted belief of not being worthy. The very belief of unworthiness sends out an army to search for the seal of approval. One’s happiness and sense of being gets trapped in the dependency on approvals. Symptoms of this dependency are all around us but we call these symptoms a way of life. For instance these symptoms show up from small statements like, “Do you think I look okay,” to “Do you think I will get the promotion,” to “Do you think the board will approve of our new business idea?” Think for a moment, when you catch yourself making any of the above-mentioned statements: Are you acting out of your need for approval or are you truly enjoying what you are doing?. You must dig deeper to come up with your own answer that is beyond the impressions of others, including the media, the advertisements, the latest fashion, the fastest car or the biggest house.
I know in my role as a pastor you cannot please all the people all the time, in fact sometimes it feels like you cant please anyone.
Once someone came across my path with great needs, and I tried everything I could do to help this person with those needs, but ultimately I discovered that in fact I was seeking their approval for helping them. If you try to help someone with deep issues because you want them to approve of you, you will fail.
Imagine a policeman who wanted everyone to approve of him, accept him. He would say to the thief, hey look do what you want, because I don’t want you to not like me.
The teacher who said, her class lets go play with water balloons today because I know you kids just want to have fun.
Yet plenty of us here this morning, and this is very important, let people take advantage of us, because we have a deep desire for approval.
You know what annoys me, when I am complaining about something, about doing something, that I agreed to do.
If you agree to do something, then don’t blame the person who asked you to do it, blame yourself.
I am not saying we should not care about others, or not care about what other people think of us, and I am not saying, we should not be sensitive to the needs of others, or be willing to help people. We should. Jesus said treat others the way you want to be treated.
But we cannot live our lives without sensible limits on our time, on our energy, on our focus. One of the biggest problems with churches is a few people doing the work of the many. That’s why we have in this church the policy, if there is no one willing to do something, it does not get done, simple as that.
We need to balance these two laws, the law of responsibility to others
With the law of responsibility to one self.
In the bad old days people used to talk about pastors kids being the biggest ratbags in the church. And you know whose fault that was? It was the churches. And it was the pastors. Because churches used to expect too much of their pastors, and pastors used to do everything that was expected of them. And the pastors family suffered. Its all about balance.
Lets have a look at the bible, because the Bible is our authority, it is the blueprint for life, lets look at where we should get our approval from, because that will provide us with out security.
Lets turn to the book John chapter 4
You know the channel ten show from which I have pinched the graphic for my sermon series, the biggest loser. On that show one of the key components to losing weight is exercise. If you don’t excersise, you don’t lose weight. Well if you don’t find where your security really does come from, you will not lose your addiction for approval.
Read chapter 4
In this passage we have just read Jesus approaches a woman at the well. It’s a well known story, and for those of you who have heard it a thousand times before, you are really going to enjoy hearing about it again. For those of you who have not heard it before, it is a great story when you realise what is really going on.
If I approached a woman in a shop, near the coke fridge, and asked her for a coke, no one would think anything of it. Say she was not the same colour as me, in Australia, no one would think anything of that.
But in Jesus’ day he committed three social misdemeanours in approaching this woman and asking her for a drink.
Firstly she was a woman. In Jewish culture at this time, to even talk to a woman, to ask her for a drink, might be considered to be flirting. And a rabbi, a teacher, was not meant to do this. Jesus wasn’t flirting, but he was breaking social norms.
Secondly she was a Samaritan woman, Jewish teachers of Jesus day were terribly racist and declared Samaritans unclean from birth. Two strikes against her, she was a woman, she was a Samaritan. But something perhaps we can relate to. She was a woman who had had five husbands and was now living with someone. Its amazing how self righteous people can be when we hear of mums with five kids to different men, living off welfare, how self righteous a Current Affair can be. What about the irresponsible fathers, we don’t hear about them. Well in Jesus day this was a third strike and you are out. This woman came to the well, in the heat of the day by herself. No one else wanted to hang around with her, and the only time she could come to the well was when no one else was there, otherwise like a kid being bullied in the playground, she would get picked on by the other women.
She didn’t know she was in need of Christ, She didn’t realize what she was hungering for. All she knew was a unending sense of dissatisfaction, an unsettledness, an uneasiness. She had five husbands, each one different than the others, each one offering her a different balm or medicine to soothe her itch, to ease her anxiety. But none of them worked out. One maybe left her for another woman, another complained of irreconcilable differences. Still another she left because of the constant bickering. But though the excuses were all different, what was the same was her sense of rejection, of a need for affirmation.
Jesus came to her, showed her respect, pointed out some home truths, but most of all he accepted her as she was.
How do you see God, see Jesus, what do you think of Him?
When you have been rejected, you may see him as rejecting.
When you have been judged harshly.... you may see Him as a harsh judge.
When you have a very low opinion of yourself, when you have not been accepted or affirmed by many people, you may not think that He would think much of you. When we don’t come to God with our deepest pains and hurts and rejections, when we don’t come to Him fully expecting Him to understand, to forgive us if needed, to welcome us into His arms, we see him wrongly.
Jesus invites us to see him for who he really is.
How do you overcome your need to seek other peoples approval all the time? Accept the fact that God accepts you just as you are. Knowing Gods grace means we have security in our hearts.
For God has said, "I will never fail you. I will never forsake you." That is why we can say with confidence, "The Lord is my helper, so I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?"
Your heavenly Father may not be anything like your earthly father, or he may be just like Him. Either way he is the sort of Dad who looks at what you do, and who you are, and loves you whether you are doing the right thing, or whether you are not. He accepts you just as you are. And there is no greater security in the world than knowing that.