I don’t know about you, although I can probably make a safe assumption, but I have at times really struggled with seeking approval from others.
Whether it was your parents when you were young (or hey, at any age) or your school friends or perhaps it was in the workplace - it’s incredibly common to look to others for our sense of worth and value. As Christians we know and we are encouraged (Colossians 3:23) not to seek approval from people but to look to God, however walking this out daily can sometimes been a struggle.
I haven’t always struggled with this as I always felt like I had approval from the people that mattered. I grew up in a loving and supportive family and was a strict rule follower (aka a goody two shoes) so was usually well liked by teachers. I was extremely social at school (aka a chatterbox) and got along well with my peers. It wasn’t until I left school and started to notice that approval in the workplace and with adult peers was a little more shaky. It’s easier to live out the biblical principle of looking to God for approval when all is well with others.
What happens when you don’t have approval from man? What does it look like to walk out Colossians 3:23 when you don’t have the approval of people?
It definitely threw me off and I tried a lot of things to try and get people’s approval. I worked crazy hours at work hoping this would change people’s opinion of me. I tried to be “cool” or “aloof” or whatever I felt I needed to be to gain people’s approval. I shifted my inner boundaries (put work before more important things) and essentially tried to alter the fabric of who I was (I tried to be quiet instead of loud) in order to please people. There’s a reason why God instructs us to live solely for His approval and that’s because in trying to please others (which is impossible by the way) we wear ourselves out and ultimately damage the person He created us to be.
At some point in my journey I found this scripture in Colossians and it was one of those ‘leapt off the pages’ kind of scriptures because it so resonated with where I wanted to be. I wanted to be someone who worked solely for God’s approval but I didn’t know how to get there. I put a beautifully illustrated version of the scripture up as a my desktop screensaver (hoping it would absorb into my spirit) but I found the MSG version of this scripture particularly helpful as it almost felt like a step by step guide as to how to walk this out.
Colossians 3:23-25 The Message
Servants, do what you’re told by your earthly masters. And don’t just do the minimum that will get you by. Do your best. Work from the heart for your real Master, for God, confident that you’ll get paid in full when you come into your inheritance. Keep in mind always that the ultimate Master you’re serving is Christ. The sullen servant who does shoddy work will be held responsible. Being a follower of Jesus doesn’t cover up bad work.
Whenever I haven’t met the mark or I can feel myself trying to please people, I ask myself the following questions:
Is God happy with me?
Have I done my absolute best?
The answer to the first question is yes, always. When I finally realised that God is always pleased with me, I found true freedom. I do not need to work to please Him. He is and always will be a huge fan of me and the ME that He created me to be. Does this mean I never have to change or I don’t work hard, absolutely not. I am constantly being changed and conformed to be more like Christ - but knowing He is pleased with me just as I am releases me from the need to please others.
While the answer to the first question is always and forever (He never is not pleased with me and I can’t do anything about that) the answer to the second question is within my power to change. Did I work hard and give it my all? Did I use the gifts and talents God has given me? Did I do my absolute best?
If the answer is YES to both then I am free from what people think. I have done my best and I make Jesus smile because of it. It’s easier to handle man’s disappointment from that vantage point.
If the answer to the second question is NO - don’t sweat. This is something you have power over and is achievable. Work hard - as if you are working for God himself - which of course you are - everything we do is for His glory.
Pleasing God is inevitable, doing your best is possible and pleasing man is totally optional.
Go and be free today as you work for His glory.