Seeking Approval from People Will Never Make Us Happy

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“Are you happy?”

A man who was following his heart asked this of a woman who was success-driven in her career. A woman who was always striving for perfectionistic performance to please her mother, never stopping to think what will make HER happy. (Movie: Stranded in Paradise)

Striving to please. Sound familiar? Do you long for success? Do you think it will make you feel happier or more approved by the people around you?

I sometimes slip into questioning the impact I make as a writer. I start thinking of numbers. Number of followers, likes, or comments. I start needing validation again or approval. I start thinking I’m not a success as a writer if I don’t write a book.

Unmet expectations, some I heap on myself and some pressures from society, make me feel I’m a failure in making a difference in this world. I think I should be making a bigger splash, like some book writers do. I start feeling pressured to write a book. But then I have to ask myself… Is this a guilt thing or a God direction? Am I just afraid writing at my blog does not make enough of a difference? Am I just seeking for approval and validation from people?

In The Art and Craft of Writing Christian Fiction, Jeff Gerke shares how his “lifelong addiction to the approval and validation of others was nothing but false thinking.” Jesus freed him to “begin writing – and living – simply for Him.”

I sometimes lose sight of that. Sometimes I think I have recovered from approval addiction, but then it floods in and consumes my thoughts again. Even though I am happy when I write, a discontent stirs in me that I’m not enough of a writer if I don’t write a book. Or my inner critic starts beating me up and telling me I’m not doing enough. I’m not making a big enough splash. But what I should be focusing on is writing and living simply for Jesus.

“Success” is never going to make us happy. And if we want to make a bigger splash in making a difference in this world just for the sake of more pats on the back, we are serving from the wrong motive. What matters is living simply for Jesus in whatever we do.

Seeking approval from people will never make us happy. Their accolades will never be enough to fill us up. What matters is our approval from God, and we have more than enough of that. He not only approves and qualifies us. He even favors us and delights in us. What more do we need?

We don’t have to even be concerned with whether we make a ripple or a splash. Happiness is to follow Jesus no matter what and to ask His Spirit of power to fill us to overflowing with His love, approval, and acceptance. Then automatically, that love will brim over into other people’s lives, and the need for success, performance, and approval from people will be forgotten.

Jesus first, no matter what we do, and we will be happy. No, it won’t always be a rose-petaled road here on earth. There are going to be bumps, potholes, and deep valleys of darkness and pain, but He’ll get us through it, and in the end it will be out-of-this-world, eternal bliss.

“Now am I trying to win the favor of men, or of God?
Do I seek to please men?
If I were still seeking popularity with men,
I should not be a bond servant of Christ (the Messiah).”
Galations 1:10 AMP

Praying we will remember Jesus loves us,
has pre-approved us, and accepts us no matter what!
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21 Days of Rest: Finding Spiritual Whitespace

A Soft Gentle Voice

Our Inner Child: Connecting and Recovering Those Pockets of Our Real Selves

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“We can’t go back the way we came.
Let’s travel ahead with each other –
to awaken our hearts to rest in whitespace,
to recover those pockets of our real selves.”

Finding Spiritual Whitespace: Awakening Your Soul to Rest
by Bonnie Gray

findingspiritualwhitespace_book-194x300I read these words and I can’t help but cry, “But how do I do that? How do I recover those pockets of my real self? That little girl who God created me to be? How do I recover those lost, stolen pockets of me as a person to be loved, respected, valued?”

To recover the pockets of my real self, I need to connect with that hurting child in me. If I don’t believe what I have lost, I will never find it back. I’m trying to connect, but I feel like I’m wandering in a maze of fog, disorientation, and numbness. I don’t know how to proceed, and yet I can’t go back to ignoring her either. I can’t keep trying to forget her pain.

I look back and see that little girl always striving to be enough in the eyes of her dad. Always worried about making everyone else happy, but feeling she doesn’t deserve to be happy herself. That little girl trying to be strong for her sister, trying to cheer up her brother, trying to get her dad to talk when he was mad and wouldn’t talk to her mom for days. Desperately trying to help her mom stop crying and be happier, only to end up feeling abandoned when her mom still checked out of her life either by withdrawing into her pain or going again to the hospital.

I look closer and watch the flits of sadness on her face. I catch her sitting on the steps with her head nestled in her arms across her knees. The tears flooding… A dog noses his way under her arms and licks the tears from her face. Then she buries her head into his fur and clings to his comfort.

This little girl hurts so bad, but she keeps it inside. She feels so lost and alone. Sometimes she wishes she had never been born. She tries to be so strong, but inside she is so afraid of her dad and does what she can to avoid being alone with him. And many times his words cut her to the core of her being.

As I take a step to go deeper into that little girl’s heart, I am sucked down into a quagmire of shame. Darkness and confusion engulf me. You are worthless. Nothing. Zero. Rejected. You will never be good enough. You will never amount to much. You are unlovable, incapable, and inadequate. You make life more miserable for anyone around you. What’s wrong with you anyway?

“As I think back on my childhood,
the word shame serves as an umbrella.
It is the sense of being completely insufficient as a person,
the nagging feeling that for some reason
you’re defective and unworthy.”

(All Is Grace by Brennan Manning)

Often that hurting child cries for help. She is still so alone, so empty, so inadequate. But I ignore her. I say, “I don’t believe you had it that bad. Suck it up and move on. Quit complaining. Others had it worse than you.”

I wholeheartedly believe what my dad did do to someone else and I can feel deep hurt and anger for them. But when it comes to this hurting little girl, I minimize or disassociate from her pain as if she is not a part of me. I have shared snippets of her sadness at times, but then my heart disassociates and closes her in again. Keep thinking happy. There is no room for sadness. Others had it worse than you. Be grateful for what you did have.

It pains me to talk bad about anyone. I always tell myself that if I look in myself, I see enough. I have no right to judge someone else’s heart. And it’s so hard to talk against my dad, because I loved him and he was the only dad I had. I’d try to forget how he hurt me and focus on the good things. Then later in life, when I could see the grace of God work a change in him, I felt even more guilty to bring it up. Why should I talk about it if God forgave him? And I started seeing his inner hurting child, so again I kept minimizing the pain in my own inner child. And that isn’t fair to her. I need to acknowledge her pain. If I don’t believe the truth of her pain, how will I ever connect with her?

I can’t connect with her and bring her to a place of healing if I don’t believe her. If I face the truth, I know her identity became who her dad said she was. I have not wanted to admit this to myself, but the truth is my dad laid the groundwork of shame that made me more vulnerable to further abuse at the hands of others. Minimizing this truth is lying and continuing to beat down that hurting little girl inside of me. I just hope what I have shared is grace-filled, makes you feel less alone, and gives you courage to connect with and bring healing to that hurting child within you.

When Bonnie gave us this week’s Spiritual Whitespace challenge, I didn’t think I could do it. I still teeter between shame sucking me under and no feelings at all when I go deeper into the pain of my inner child. But after writing the above, I’m going to attempt a short note, hopefully the beginning of many more as I learn to connect with her and nurture her as God wants me to.

Write a letter to your younger self.
What would you say to her, knowing what you know today?

“My dear child, I’m so sorry I have ignored your pain. I have abandoned anything good in you. It’s no wonder you feel so empty and alone. My heart aches and is heavily burdened for the pain of other children, but I have not acknowledged yours. I’m so sorry. I want you in my life. I want to acknowledge you as a part of me. I don’t want to keep stuffing you deeper into the quagmire of shame. I don’t want to keep avoiding its power to keep hurting you. I want to nurture you more. You feel so unlovable, so incapable, so inadequate. I want to take you with me into the open heart of Jesus. Jesus who travels this journey of pain with us. He understands and longs to recover those lost and stolen pockets of our real selves. Let’s open our heart and invite Him in. To connect us. To make us one. To penetrate those deep hidden crevices of pain and heal us. He takes little girls into the center of His heart and longs to bless them. He doesn’t want me to keep hiding you. Even He chose to allow the world to see His wounds after He arose again. He doesn’t want me to be ashamed of your brokenness. Come. Let’s enter into His safe and healing sanctuary together.”

“His (Jesus’) wounds didn’t disappear with His resurrected body.
Jesus chose to walk out into the world
with His scars from the past – visible.”

– Bonnie Gray

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How about you? Can you connect with your inner child?
Or do you disassociate from him/her? Maybe because it hurts too much?
If you could write him/her a letter, what would you say?

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Joining Up With:

21 Days of Rest: Finding Spiritual Whitespace

A Soft Gentle Voice