“If you live for people’s approval, you’ll die by their rejection.”
— Rick Warren
Approval and rejection are two powerful forces within humanity describing perceptions of success and failure at the level of our human identity. The trouble with each, approval and rejection, is both are highly subjective; especially when we feel threatened and overly needy.
The source of our neediness can be traced back to a form of insecure attachment when we were infants and toddlers.
Because our parents and caregivers at times couldn’t be there for us, and may not have perceived or met our needs with 100% consistency, because no human could, we may therefore have the occasional propensity to slink into this fear for abandonment. Especially if we can de-categorise attachment theory, and assume that we may all feel threatened for abandonment in some extraordinary situations, as all will feel this from time to time, we can see our need of approval and our disheartened responses when we are rejected.
Empathising with Ourselves
Perhaps the best self-therapy we can manage if we are given to seeking approval and/or are damaged by people’s rejection of us—that we feel rejected from time to time—is the plain acknowledgement that sometimes we feel abandoned, unworthy, not good enough.
I think this is the case with all of us, and it is teased out in particular situations.
So, in many ways none of us is securely attached in the perfect sense. We are all able to be hurt because of abandonment issues. We may all feel disgusted, angry, upset, confused, threatened, etc, because someone said “no” or we failed at something.
Coming to the truth helps.
If we can see ourselves as not too far removed from others, being that most people in their particular vulnerable situations feel threatened for abandonment, we don’t feel so exposed. This helps us worry not so much. If we know we don’t stand out as uniquely vulnerable, we may not eventually feel as susceptible to approval and rejection.
Living for God’s Approval
If we can accept ourselves as needy of some form of approval, knowing that we cannot achieve a satisfactory or sustaining sensible human approval, we can ‘settle’ for the approval of the One who already approves of us—no matter how well or poorly we behave or perform.
Through Christ’s work on the cross we are approved. Nothing else needs to be done, except accepting Jesus’ atoning deed and our salvation.
The more we live knowing God’s approval, the more we worship God, the less we seek the approval of others and the less we are hurt by their rejection, and the freer we live.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.