In "Approval Addiction: Overcoming Your Need to Please Everyone," best-selling author Joyce Meyer takes on a topic that plagues many people -- the need for constant affirmation from others. Meyer says this unhealthy insecurity can ruin relationships and even turn into an addiction. Her answer is to find security in God.
You can read an excerpt from "Approval Addiction" below.
From Chapter One: Facing Fear and Finding Freedom
The first step in understanding an out-of-balance need for approval is to understand fear. The variety of fears people deal with is endless, but an important one I discovered in my own life -- and one you may be dealing with yourself -- is the fear of not being pleasing to God. If you have been hurt and wounded by people who were difficult or even impossible to please, you may think God is the same way. He isn't! It is not as difficult to please God as we may think it is. Simple, childlike faith pleases Him. He already knows we will not behave perfectly all the time. That is why He sent Jesus to pay for our failures and mistakes.
As I said in the Introduction, I struggled and suffered in frustration many years trying to please God with good, or even perfect, behavior. At the same time I was always fearful I was failing. It seemed no matter what I did right, I always saw something I was doing wrong. I never felt good enough; no matter what I did, I always felt as if I needed to do more. I felt God was displeased with me, and even though that was not accurate, it was true for me because I believed it. I was deceived!
There is a possibility you, too, have been deceived. To be deceived means to believe a lie. Many people are trapped in bondage that makes them miserable simply because they have wrong belief systems. It is very possible you believe some things with all your heart, yet those things are not true at all. I once believed my future would always be affected by my past, but then I learned through God's Word that what I believed was not true at all.
We can let go of what lies behind, be totally forgiven for all our wrongdoing, and enjoy the awesome future God had planned for us since before the beginning of time.
'What Must I Do to Please God?'
There are two main things I believe we must do to please God. Number one is to have faith in Jesus, and number two is to desire to please Him with all our heart. It is important to understand that we cannot have one without the other. The Bible says without faith it is impossible to please God (See Hebrews 11:6).
In John 6:28-29 we read about some people who asked Jesus:
What are we to do, that we may [habitually] be working the works of God? [What are we to do to carry out what God requires?]
Jesus replied, This is the work (service) that God asks of you; that you believe in the One Whom He has sent.
So you see God is pleased when we believe in His Son Jesus, and He is not pleased when we don't. We might do numerous good and benevolent works, yet if we have no faith in Jesus, God is still not pleased with us. But if we believe and trust in God, we enter His rest according to Hebrews 4; we feel at ease and comfortable rather than fearful and anxious about life.
We believe, and God works. Our work -- the work of the believer -- is simply to believe. Remember, we are accepted because of our faith, not our good works. Christians are referred to as believers. If our job were to achieve, we would be called achievers, not believers. We often want to place an emphasis on what we do, but our focus should be on what God has done for us in Jesus Christ. We can concentrate on our sin and be miserable, or we can concentrate on God's forgiveness and mercy and be happy.
Once we see this truth, we can enjoy our relationship with God. We don't have to live under the pressure of acceptance by performance, followed by a fear of failure each time our performance is less than perfect. We do not have to be addicted to approval and ready to obtain it by any means. If we want to please God with all our hearts, all we need to do is believe in His Son Jesus Christ and believe what He says in His Word.
I lived in the performance-acceptance trap for many years. I was addicted to approval. I felt if I performed well, then I would be approved of and accepted by God and people. I did not feel good about nor accept myself unless I performed well. When I did not perform well, I automatically assumed God rejected me because that was what I was accustomed to with people. Once again truth was distorted for me through a wrong belief system.
God does not reject us when we make mistakes, but if we think He does, if we fear He does, the lie we have believed becomes truth to us. I once had an employee who had experienced a lot of rejection from her father when she did not do well in school or perform perfectly in other areas. The rejection she experienced early in her life caused her to develop some behavior patterns that were difficult to understand. When her job performance was anything less than perfect, I sensed her withdrawing from me and felt rejected by her. Not only did she withdraw, she also went into a work frenzy trying to get more done.
This behavior really bothered me and made it difficult for me to have a comfortable relationship with her. As her employer I dreaded giving her direction or correction about anything because I knew from experience how she would behave. As a matter of fact, I dreaded even asking her how various projects were coming along because if she could not give me a perfect report she became upset even if I remained calm. If I asked the status of her work, the only time she seemed settled and happy was if she could tell me everything was done, and done perfectly right.
I did not understand her actions at the time, but through prayer and sharing openly we finally discovered she was extremely afraid of being rejected if she did not perform perfectly. Even though I was not rejecting her, her fear of being rejected caused her to withdraw from me. To make matters worse, her withdrawal and silence then made me feel she was rejecting me, or that I had done something wrong. Her belief system was wrong, but it nonetheless created an uncomfortable atmosphere in which Satan could easily work.
I did not expect her to be perfect, but she expected it of herself. I was not pressuring her; she was pressuring herself. Even though I was not upset with her progress, she assumed I was and reacted to me accordingly. Her behavior really confused me and made me not want to work with her. Thankfully, she eventually learned to believe I loved and accepted her even though her performance was not always perfect. This enabled us to work together in joy for many years.
Just as I had learned before in my own life, my employee had to learn to believe what I said rather than what she felt. We must choose to do the same thing in our relationship with God. We must learn to trust God's Word more than our own feelings. We often bow down to our feelings without realizing how fickle and changeable they are. Our feelings are not a reliable source of information. God loves us and accepts us unconditionally. His love is not based on our performance. The Bible says in Ephesians 1:6 "that we are made acceptable in the Beloved." As I said earlier, it is our faith in Jesus that makes us acceptable to God and pleases Him, not our performance.
We are not living by faith if we believe how we feel more than we believe what God's Word says. Do you believe the God of the Bible or the god of your feelings?
'The Thing I Fear Comes Upon Me'
For the thing which I greatly fear comes upon me, and that of which I am afraid befalls me. (Job 3:25)
As I said earlier, fear is a terrible emotion -- a self-fulfilling one. Job had fears concerning his children and finally reached a place in his life where he saw his fears coming to pass. The Bible says it will be unto us as we believe (See Matthew 9:29). That principle works in the negative as well as the positive. We can receive by fear as well as by faith.
My husband and I once hired a handyman to do some work for us. He kept saying he was afraid he would set off the security alarm. We went over the instructions with him several times but could tell that he still lacked confidence. The first day he came to do some work, he set the alarm when he left and everything seemed to be fine. But that evening we had some bad storms, and something set the alarm off at 3:00 A.M. The police called and said a door was ajar and they had secured it. We had to call the man we hired and ask him to go check. The news that the alarm went off really unsettled him. He said, "I was afraid that would happen."
Fear is simply faith in what Satan says. We must remember that not only does God speak to us but Satan also speaks. He is a liar (See John 8:44), and when we believe his lies, we are deceived and the door is open for him to work in our lives. We open the door for God to work by placing faith in His Word, and we open the door for Satan to work by placing faith in his word. He places thoughts in our minds that are not true, but can become true for us if they are believed. If we are afraid we are not pleasing to God or people, we will manifest behavior that will actually make us displeasing. The same principle works with rejection. If we fear being rejected, we will often behave in a way that will cause people to reject us. We produce what we believe!
Because I am seen as a strong authority figure, I sometimes encounter people who are afraid of me or very nervous in my presence. I don't do anything to make them afraid; they have a problem from something in their past that has left them insecure and fearful in the presence of authority. I don't like it when people are afraid of me. Just as in the case of my employee whose past issues strained our work relationship, it makes me uncomfortable and can actually cause me not to want to be around them. Their fear of me produces the very thing they are afraid of.
I know what I'm talking about, because I dealt with the same issue from the other side. I was raised in a very dysfunctional home—a home filled with violence, abuse, and fear. Because I was mistreated, I developed the feeling that I was flawed and unacceptable. I was ashamed of myself. I was afraid to meet new people because I felt they would not like me, and sure enough most of them did not. Even the ones I did become friends with often told me later they did not like me when they first met me. I got exactly what I believed!
You Are No Surprise to God
We act as if God is shocked to discover we make mistakes. He is not in heaven wringing His hands saying, "Oh no! I had no idea you would act like this when I chose you" God has a big eraser, and He uses it to keep our record clean and clear. He knows the end from the beginning of all things (See Isaiah 46:10). He already knows what our thoughts are and every word in our mouth that is still unuttered. He is acquainted with all of our ways (See Psalm 139:1-4). Even with all His foreknowledge of our weaknesses and the mistakes we would make, He still chose us on purpose and brought us into relationship with Himself through Christ.
If we never make mistakes, then we are probably not making any decisions either. F. Scott Fitzgerald said, "Never confuse a single mistake with a final mistake." Our mistakes have value; we can learn from them. I like what author and speaker John C. Maxwell had to say about them. He said mistakes are:
Messages that give us feedback about life.
Interruptions that should cause us to reflect and think.
Signposts that direct us to the right path.
Tests that push us toward greater maturity.
Awakenings that keep us in the game mentally.
Keys that we can use to unlock the next door of opportunity.
Explorations that let us journey where we've never been before.
Statements about our development and progress.
I'm reminded of an anecdote I've read and heard several times over the years. A well-known speaker started off his seminar by holding up a fifty-dollar bill. In the room of two hundred, he asked, "Who would like this fifty-dollar bill?" Hands started going up. He said, "I am going to give it to one of you, but first let me do this."
He proceeded to crumple the bill up. He then asked, "Who still wants it?"
Still the hands were up in the air.
"Well," he replied, "what if I do this?" And he dropped it on the ground and started to grind it into the floor with his shoe. He picked it up, now all crumpled and dirty.
"Now who still wants it?" Still the hands went into the air.
"My friends, you have all learned a very valuable lesson. No matter what I did to the money, you still wanted it because it did not decrease in value. It was still worth fifty dollars."
Many times in our lives, we are dropped, crumpled, and ground into the dirt by the decisions we make and the circumstances that come our way. We feel as though we are worthless. But no matter what has happened or what will happen, we will never lose our value in God's eyes. Dirty or clean, crumpled or finely creased, we are still priceless to Him.
Our desire for approval can only truly be met by receiving God's acceptance and approval of us. God told Jeremiah that before He formed him in the womb of his mother, He knew him and approved of him as His chosen instrument (See Jeremiah 1:5). When God says He knows us, He means He really knows us. This is a knowing that leaves nothing out.
Excerpted from "Approval Addiction: Overcoming Your Need to Please Everyone," by Joyce Meyer. Copyright © 2005 by Joyce Meyer.