Why do we care so much about what people think? It manifests itself in the clothing we wear, the activities we do, the careers we choose, and sometimes, the spouses we decide to spend our lives with. For me, it showed up the most in my late 20s. I was caught in the approval trap—trying to please other people with most of my decisions. But living that way gets exhausting after a while. Fortunately, one important decision helped lead me to quit seeking approval from others for good.
In the fall of 1997, my husband, Chris, and I felt like a change was coming for us. We had been ministering as youth and worship leaders for a few years at a great church in San Antonio, Texas. And now, after spending our entire lives there, we felt God leading us to be a part of a new start-up church—in Memphis, Tennessee.
We had to begin the process of telling people that we were moving, but the thought of telling our church leaders, friends, employers, and of course, our family was almost debilitating for me. We never thought we’d leave Texas, so to bring this information to our family, well, I was dreading it. I just knew that everyone we told would be upset—mad even.
Ultimately, I pushed through the discomfort to follow God’s leading. (And of course, had a little help from my husband.)
Thankfully, nobody got angry at us for leaving. Disappointed, sure. But we were able to move forward on this journey because we truly believed God was leading us in a different direction. During that time in our lives, I am so very thankful that I didn’t let my desire for the approval of others keep me from listening to and following God.
In the New Testament, Paul writes in Galatians 1:10 that seeking the approval of man and God cannot coexist. Does that mean it’s never okay to please those we love? Of course not. I love to put a smile on people’s faces. I love to serve them and do things for them that do please them. But, if we make seeking approval from others our goal, it will always be a moving target. What pleases one person won’t always please another. We must seek to please God only.
The church in Memphis that we were joining was excited we were moving there. Our church in San Antonio was not happy that we were leaving. Moving target. Choosing to set our gaze on our Heavenly Father and do what He leads us to is where we must place our allegiance. Attempting to get approval from our spouse, our parents, our friends, or our boss will always leave us missing the goal.
Allow me to give you a couple of suggestions that have brought freedom to me in this area:
Stay true to your convictions. Don’t adjust what you believe and stand for to please someone. We must seek to do what God has called us to do and live our lives according to His standards. If this bothers others, we must not adjust our choices. Our manner in executing our beliefs and choices should always exhibit the fruit of the Spirit of God, but that doesn’t mean that we change what we’re doing or saying.
Manage your expectations. Just like you might struggle with seeking approval, someone else may be in your shoes—they may want your approval. Let them off the hook. Encourage people to follow what God is leading them to do even if and especially when it doesn’t work in your favor. If we don’t learn to manage our expectations, disappointment will most assuredly be the outcome.
We have one life to live on this earth. One hope-filled, abundant life given to us by the Creator of the world. Don’t you want that? As we follow Him, we can be absolutely confident that He is leading us in the right direction and more than able to handle the ones in our lives who may not be as understanding of our choices.