The Approval Addiction

John 12:42-43 (NIV) – Yet at the same time many even among the leaders believed in him. But because of the Pharisees they would not openly acknowledge their faith for fear they would be put out of the synagogue; for they loved human praise more than praise from God.

Jesus was in His final days before His crucifixion. He spoke clearly about His impending death. On this occasion, the Father spoke from heaven and the crowd heard it though some people thought it was the rumbling of thunder. Many Jews, especially the religious leaders, remained unconvinced that Jesus was the Messiah. However, many others believed. But because of the intense opposition against the person and ministry of Jesus, many of those that believed dared not openly professed their faith in Jesus.

Perhaps they feared being ridiculed for believing that a poor carpenter hailed from the backwaters of Galilee could be the keenly awaited Messiah. They also feared persecution and being barred from the synagogue, which was a big deal because the Jewish religious life centred around the temple and local synagogues. So, their fear is not without legitimacy.

But notice that John added the comment: “For they loved human praise more than praised from God.” In other words, they were more concerned about acceptance and approval from man than from God. This is a serious allegation. Do you think that John is a little too harsh? Well, this is the Holy Scripture. So, this is the opinion of God; not John’s.

People need approval. Children need the approval of their parents. Students need the approval of their teachers and workers their bosses. Generally, people thrive on a healthy dose of approval and praise.

However, it is not the same when you are overly reliant on the approval and validation of people such that without it, you feel underappreciated and unaccepted, and consequently miserable. This is unhealthy and potentially destructive to a person’s well-being.

With the widespread use and popularity of the social media, this craving for approval has been magnified as well as exposed. Many people seek approval online in the digital world. It betrays their emptiness in life. They post lots of selfies and wefies. They post pictures showcasing themselves, their exploits and their children’s talents. Reality TV is duplicated many times over in the Facebook and Instagram pages as people put their daily life from the mundane to the private on public display.

For what purpose? You wonder. People are crying out for attention. They want to be liked and affirmed. You post a nice and perhaps overly flattering photo of yourself and you watch for the number of likes registered. You are happy when you accumulate many likes, failing which you get deflated.

But seriously, what do you gain? A kick? A few moments of glory? The praise of man? After you get it, then what? It is like taking drugs. It gives you a momentary boost and then it is gone. You need another fix. The next time you do not get as many likes, you try harder. The whole charade leaves you wanting more and more – more approval, more affirmation and more validation. There is no end to it. Ultimately, it will just leave you empty and dissatisfied.

More and more sociologists are sounding the alarm on the indiscriminate use of the social media and pointing out its ill-effects. By itself, social media is neutral. It is amoral, neither good or bad. It really depends on the users and their motivation. We must judge ourselves and let the words of the Scripture judge us. What is the motivation behind my posts? Is it just to share my experiences or is it in response to my approval addiction? Is it to promote something worthwhile or is it for self-promotion? Do I go overboard and make compromises in my attempt to be popular?

Seeking approval and affirmation online is absurd because most of the people that like and make flattering comments on your frivolous posts are counting on you to reciprocate their good gesture toward you. They are not necessarily sincere. So, do not allow yourself to be fooled.

I suggest that you do not look to the applause of man. Instead, seek the approval of God. God’s approval is ultimately that which matters. We know from the teachings of the bible the kind of life that God approves. It is a life that is lived in obedience to Him and according to His ways. Live in such a manner because only then will you find true joy and satisfaction. Only Jesus can satisfy the deep cries and desires of our heart. Therefore, look only to Jesus.

Pastors Les & Adeline Chua