Wednesday, January 17, 2007

On the receiving end

So often, this is me:
Evaluating our self-worth by what we and others think of our performance leads us to believe that any time our performance is unacceptable, we are unacceptable as well. To some extent, virtually all of us have internalized the following sentence into our belief system and hold to it with amazing tenacity: I must have acceptance, respect, and approval to have self-worth.
And sometimes, this is also me:
Again and again, we've tried to measure up, thinking that if we could meet certain standards we would feel good about ourselves. But again and again, we've failed and have felt miserable...If we believe that our self-worth is based on our success, we will try to avoid failure at all costs.
By nature, I am the Approval Addict (first description) caught in the Performance Trap (second description). Both descriptions are from The Search for Significance (subtitle: We can build our self-worth on our ability to please others or on the love and forgiveness of Jesus Christ). A book difficult to recommend because it will so get in your business.

A few days ago I was on the phone with an acquaintance and we were discussing an upcoming teaching responsibility of mine. Now, I have to tell you, this friend lives life on a different plane than the rest of us, and I mean that in the best possible way. She just emanates Jesus and you cannot talk to her for any length of time and have any doubt of her sincere devotion to Him. I told my husband the other night when I got off the phone that every time I talk to her I feel like I've just been faking this whole Christian thing. She is so totally the real deal. She and I, we're just different, I know that, and that's exactly what my husband told me and he's right. But all that to say, her approval is definitely one I would want to earn.

So she says to me, about this upcoming teaching opportunity, "I haven't heard you teach before, but I just know it's going to be wonderful. You are a speaker (my thoughts: I am?) and God has given you a passion for it." She goes on to encourage me in every possible way, and describes a sense of expectation and anticipation in her spirit that she believes is of God. "He's going to do something exciting," she declares with great confidence.

I am humbled by her kind words. I did not know what to say in response, other than "thank you." But I have to confess my first thoughts were "How in the world can I measure up to THAT? What if I do what I do and there is nothing exciting that happens? What if she's disappointed...in me and my teaching?"

That Approval Addict in that Performance Trap tells me I need her approval and that approval is conditional on how I perform and my performance must meet a predetermined set of expectations. The addict in me begins to fear rejection and disapproval, and succumbs to that self inflicted pressure to achieve some nebulous definition of success.

Lies.

The truth is, if my friend approves or disapproves, it does not matter. What matters is God's approval:
Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please me? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ. Gal. 1:10
What matter is God having His way and doing His thing, whatever that may be, whether we would describe it as "success" or "failure", "exciting" or not. What He wants, I want. I know if anything of eternal significance, if anything of spiritual merit happens, it is of Him and most definitely not me.

As for my friend's sincere words of encouragement, I do not view them as some standard I must achieve. Instead, I receive them with humility, sharing her sense of anticipation. What our God wants to do, what He wants to say, I receive...

4 comments:

  1. As for your friend:

    I had an ederly lady in my life, who is now with Jesus, that would say very similar things to me. I did not feel like I measured up to her precious words about me. Instead, I prayed, "Father help me become the person she sees that I am, or help me believe I am that person."

    The Lord places these people in our life to spur us on forward, to encourage us.

    Blessings.

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  2. Very wonderful closure...what really matters? God,that's it. Do we fear man or God...we do care what people think and say about us,sometimes too much--I know I do.

    Kim

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  3. If God has called you to do something, Lisa, then I have no doubt that He will give you the tools and ability to do it. You are an awesome woman of God and I can tell through your writing that you are an awesome teacher! Blessings to you!

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  4. You are SO right--this book does get into your busniess. Love your posts-very reflective.

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