In these uncertain times, a peculiar thing has begun to happen to me. It’s not a new sensation, but something that seems to rise up in me when things don’t feel stabile. I’ve definitely encountered it in other uncertain times of my life… and I think we can all agree that things feels a little shaky right now.
When I don’t feel like my world is secure, I find myself becoming overly attached to the approval and acceptance of others. It’s like I’m looking for people to tell me that I’m ok.
I’m doing it right.
& they approve.
(And I prefer it in the form of verbal affirmation;))
I don’t think asking for input is a bad thing but the space where I go looks more like ramped up people-pleasing with more of a need for approval than input. I want the people around me to approve and accept what I’m doing…because let’s be real…acceptance feels safe, doesn’t it?
The irony of my people-pleasing tendency, is that I like to think of myself as a strong, independent person who isn’t dependent on what other people think. So when the opinions of others begin to matter more than my own, I feel myself slide into shame. And shame’s voice has this naggy, snippy tone that sounds a lot like Sue Sylvester from the show Glee (for non-Glee watchers just move right along),
“This is not middle school Devany – you are a grown-ass woman…think for yourself!
Get it together!”
I’ve learned that shame has a lot of power over me. It does over all of us. And when it rears its ugly head, it can shut us down completely. But counseling has taught me that there is also great power in naming our pain points. And I’ll tell you, it’s painful for me to feel vulnerable. It’s painful for me to feel a loss of security.
But the truth is, that we all are imperfect humans who have a deep need for love and belonging. And these needs do in fact make us vulnerable which is part of the human condition.
I felt myself exhale as I realized that there is nothing wrong with me because I feel vulnerable and want to find acceptance. Isn’t it true that so often in life, things begin to break when we look for the right things in the wrong places.
Our need for a sense of belonging has been woven into our human identity. It’s no wonder when the world feels unsteady I’m seeking the security of acceptance. Deep down, I want to know that I belong. That I’m ok.
But as I look for this acceptance only in others, it falls short every time. I wear myself out pleasing and striving and I’m only left tired, frustrated, disappointed and never quite satisfied.
In the words of Graham Cooke,
We’re not learning how to be acceptable.
We’re learning in a place where we are already, always, absolutely accepted in Christ.
There is no need to chase acceptance and belonging. We must only remember it. As Paul tells us in Scripture,
“He chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before him in love. 5 He destined us for adoption as his children through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of his will…
to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved.Ephesians 1:4-6 (NASB, NKJV)
We each are already accepted in the Beloved.
We don’t have to earn it, force it, find it…. we can claim it as our identity.
And my strength is found when I trust this God-given identify and have the courage to keep my heart open and soft instead of closed-off and un-affected. For real love can only be experienced in the space of vulnerability.
My momma heart knows this kind of acceptance. I gave it to both my children the first moment I held them in my arms as tiny, helpless babies.
Before they could do a single thing for themselves or for me, (except maybe poop on my arm), I loved them. Completely and wholly.
They belonged to me, and no one or thing could ever change that.
What shifts when we live our lives as the one already accepted in Christ, not the one seeking acceptance?
This is the glory of grace.
Grace says, live whole-heartedly, give joyfully, love abundantly.
This life is a gift. There is nothing to earn.
You can trust that you are loved, so greet the world with open hands and open hearts.
Step into a life of love, not a life of fear.