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I care about the approval of men too much

I have a confession to make. Though by nature I’m fairly self-reliant, I really do care what other people say about me. To an alarming degree, it matters what you think.I wish that weren’t the case. I wish I could just flip some switch, and your approval meant nothing to me, but, hey – it is w…
By Seth Barnes
By Seth Barnes

I have a confession to make. Though by nature I’m fairly self-reliant, I really do care what other people say about me. To an alarming degree, it matters what you think.

I wish that weren’t the case. I wish I could just flip some switch, and your approval meant nothing to me, but, hey – it is what it is. I know about how we as Christians should “find our identity in Christ.” I write about that stuff, for goodness sakes. I know that as a leader, you can’t get everyone to like you. It’s better that they respect you.

Yet, here I sit, wondering, for example, what you think about the latest blog. Does it scratch an itch you’ve got? Does it provoke you to pursue greatness? I look at the comments at the end of these blogs and to some minor degree, measure my worth every day by how many of you responded. I care about people and can be real pastoral sometimes. A lot of pastors actually struggle like I do with this.

I don’t like blogging so much on weekends – I’m “preaching” to smaller numbers on weekends. And I don’t much like preaching at churches. My message tends to be about missions and the kingdom and most church-goers have only a passing interest in such things.

Today, I’m flying up to Chicago to preach to a Baptist church that’s going with us to Guatemala this summer. “What will they think of my provocative message?” my mind wonders – mentally I’m wringing my hands. And I’m tempted to water down the message so that it will be more palatable.

Can you imagine John the Baptist being that way? I’d have made a terrible John the Baptist. “Repent for the kingdom of God is at hand!” I’d shout to the crowds.

“What are you talking about?” Someone would yell back.

And I’d probably go fumbling thru my sermon notes: “Hang on a second. It’s here somewhere.”

This week I had to talk to a couple of parents who are forbidding their 24 year-old daughter to go on the World Race. “She’s grown up enough, we’re happy with the way she is. We don’t care if she grows anymore.” Part of me wants to cuss them out. But I reason with them and am civil. I don’t issue any ultimatums or tell them they’re making the worst mistake of their lives (see Cost-me-nothing missions).

Somewhere there is a balance. We all need to care less. But getting there is a pain in the rear.

Comments (17)

  • I appreciate your honesty in this blog. Way to pursue transparency. I need to talk to you about that sometime. I guess that’s the “next thing” that I’m working on now. I started with you and have tried to take it deeper. But man does it suck.

  • I too have a case of Approval-Addiction, so this blog put a big smile on my face. Your John the Baptist anecdote cracks me up!

    I’ve been around many-a-leader in the Church who were at the other end of the approval-spectrum and didn’t care enough about what others thought. They were straightforward in their speech, but also harsh and destructive. Words from spiritual leaders carry extra weight with people, and often these torn down souls would take years to recover, if ever.

    What I like about you Seth is that even though you have a slight case of AA, it doesn’t prevent you from doing and saying what you’re supposed to do and say. You’re straightforward, but you speak the truth in love. And no matter where we are in the approval-spectrum, that’s the center we need to strive for, and I think you do it well.

  • How is it that a parent can ‘forbid’ a 24-year old daughter to do anything? Isn’t she an adult? Doesn’t she belong to God?

    We lost one of our children when she was a baby from a heart defect. We prayed intensely for her healing, but God decided otherwise.

    I think this event, more than any other, taught us that our children belong to Him – not to us – they are GIFTS to raise for HIM.

    It is scary sometimes to let God have your children – because you never know what He’s going to do with them, but it’s FOOLISH to try to keep them for yourself.

    They are much safer where He leads them, then where we as parents might lead them.

    Personal note: Each of our five kids are in training for world missions – our oldest son is on the World Race in Peru; our second son is in Bible College training to be a missionary pilot; our third son is going to Haiti this summer to help with Medical missions; our 16-year old daughter is going to West Africa in June with New Tribes Mission to work with a tribal group – who is hearing the gospel for the FIRST TIME; our youngest daughter (14) is already planning for what she wants to do next year.

    And we are SO EXCITED for them! And all this on a PASTOR’S salary. It is a sacrifice, but God is more than supplying our needs.

    No one can say we don’t understand what it’s like to lose a child. It’s one of the worst things imaginable. But I wouldn’t trade the blessing of watching the ones we have left serve God for ANYTHING!


    There…that’s my soapbox!

  • Approval addiction is very similar to food addiction, it only satisfies for the moment, and then the craving continues for another day. Just as with overweight people, they have found that the real problem is that of “love” hunger, so as it is with approval addiction – it is “love.” And God is love, and when we know his love MARK!!!! then our approval addiction is overcome, as well as any other “love” hungers. I know this “affair” with “love” hunger in different areas of life, and especially – approval – all “love” hungers are forms of adultery from God’s love and kindness. I stand with you brother Seth, knowing that we are accepted in the Beloved, teach us Lord,and help our unbelief. I care…St. Mark I John 3:1

  • Oh yes, the good ole people pleasing part of the flesh dies hard! Glad to know I’m going to fight it my whole life. But the thing is,that doesn’t discourage me – it encourages me to know other men I respect struggle with the same issues.

    It’s a tough line to walk, you want to see your flock get their pleasure from the Lord. Yet at the same time, I as a leader have to avoid getting my pleasure from their approval.

  • Well, Bob beat me to it regarding the parents. But it seems to me the real hard issue is for the 24 yr. old. Will she leave father and mother for the kingdom of God? (And gain more fathers and mothers, He promised, in this world and the next.) I will pray for the parents because God has spoken to such in the past and put the fear of the Lord on them, and it would sure decrease their daughter’s anguish. May God give her wisdom. At her age, there is discernment between honoring parents and obeying them. Especially if obedience is at the price of disobeying God. I’ll pray for His courage and peace for her.

    And, yeah, I’d want to cuss the parents out, too.

    Three years ago Drew and I started a couples bible study using your book listening prayer,four couples started,one couple finished.:) We now serve with you and many we do not know in AIM full time!!! Press on!!! In Jesus Name

  • THis is the very lesson that I have been trying to learn this week. GOd is saying care less about them, more about me! I am so glad you are real, Seth. It means a lot (and is oh so very rare) when a leader shares what they are having a hard time with….and it ends up being the same thing I am working on figuring out.

  • AHHH! Don’t water it down Seth… please don’t. This weekend I was hit hard with the revelation of so many in my own life practicing the religion of Christianity – and doing it well – and I wonder how many will hear, Depart from me for I never knew you. I wonder what judgement I will face cause I was too worried about offending them or being called judgmental or extreme to stand in the crowd and boldly speak the truth in love!!!

  • I can’t wait for the day my boys come to me and say they want to go to the mission field.
    Then again, I don’t want them t simply do it for my approval, if you know what I mean.
    If we stop growing, we may as well be dead.

  • Thank you Seth. That is so much of the point I was making about being afraid to blog. You put it far more eloquently than I did! Thank you for your courage, and for letting me know that I am not alone in that struggle.

  • I don’t know what any of you are talking about… teehee…

    I will, however, pray for you this weekend and for the parents of the person GOING on the World Race! Ya want me to talk to them…

  • GRRRR!!!
    A 24 year old is not a child. I am SO fed up with how long we are stretching out childhood. There are 9 year olds running households in other parts of the world, but we don’t expect our youth to actually contribute and function in society until after college?!?! I’m not saying that 9 year olds should have that much put upon them, but we have to start asking more of our youth. They are capable, they are smart, and they’re out smoking weed with their allowance money because no one asked them to do anything harder.

  • tara* (WR July 08)

    I think somewhere in all of us is that desire to be accepted by men and for us to be verbally assured of our worth if you will. I know I struggle with really trying hard to not care what anyone else thinks and then I seek affirmation at the same time. I do all the work and pretend to not care if anyone has noticed and then sneak a peak to see if anyone has noticed or appreciates me. It is strange because people tell me all the time that I inspire them to be themselves and that I am able to just be me and that I do not care what others think. Hmm… I just love hearing that; it makes me feel good about myself. But, then I think that I must hide it well, because I know I sure have a desire to please men. And, I wonder if I am doing things to please men, or God? If I am real honest there are plenty of times it is to please men. I want to be at the place where I only care about what God thinks and I am completely 100% abandoned, unhindered and fearless! – So all that to say, thanks yet again for your vulnerability and honesty. I really cherish how refreshing it is to hear you being real. It is sincere. t*

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Seth Barnes

I'm motivated to join God in his global reclamation project. He's on the move, setting his sons and daughters free from their places of captivity. And he's partnering with those of us who have been freed to go and free others.

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