Sunday, March 1, 2015

How To Seek Approval

If there’s one thing that parents, teachers and child workers drum into kids’ heads more than another, it’s that they should not be addicted to peer approval.

“Don’t follow the crowd in doing wrong.”
“Just because your friends are doing it doesn’t mean you should do it.”
“Go against the flow.”
“Stand your ground.”

It’s good to teach your children to stick to the right principles, regardless of whether their peers are doing so. But I would like to address a common misconception that goes along with this. I want to challenge the assumption that seeking approval from others is bad.

I’ve actually heard people say this: “You shouldn’t need the approval of others.” I disagree. I think that God made us to need approval, to need outside validation of our actions. The problem is not with needing this validation – the problem is that we seek the validation from the wrong people.

We need to create an “approval network” around us that will give us acceptance and encouragement in godly living.

We are first and foremost created to need the approval of God. God created us to be in fellowship with Him, and we find our true satisfaction and fulfillment in life when we know we have His approval. Of course, we can’t earn that approval on our own because we are sinful. That’s why the gift of Jesus’ atonement on the cross is so valuable. When we accept Christ’s atonement, our sins are forgiven and canceled out but even more, we can be brought into sweet fellowship with our Creator once again. As we daily try to live as the Bible teaches, we find our lives full of the strength of character that comes from knowing God has accepted us. After all, when God is for us, what can it matter who is against us? (see Romans 8) God must be the primary Person in our “approval network.”

But God also created us to enjoy fellowship with other people. The only thing that God said was “not good” about creation in the Genesis account was that Adam was “alone.” And God remedied the problem by providing Adam with another person to fellowship with: Eve. He told Adam and Eve to procreate and bring more people into the world. We are created for friendship with others.

Knowing this, we must choose wisely when we form the friendships that will fill in our earthly “approval network.” Think about the people you value and respect, the ones you seek out for fun outings, the ones you can relax around. Are they the kind of people who will validate and approve your wise choices? Will they have the courage to question you when you make unwise choices? Are their own life choices ones that show character and wisdom? Since our close friends are the people we naturally seek acceptance from, we should choose friends that will support us in living right.

This is why it is important to be in a good church body. I know that some people feel that there’s no point in attending weekly church services. But a good church body can be part of your approval network. They can be part of the team that cheers you on to live biblically, and they can also help pull you back from making unwise choices. If there is no church body in your life providing an approval network, this leaves a vacuum that is often filled by more worldly friends.

Homeschooling is a good way to help your children build the right approval network. It’s tough for an adult to have the strength of character to go against the flow of everyone around him, every day. It’s even harder for a child or teen to do so. We are not created to function well when we’re constantly fighting against the current of every person we’re around all day. That’s stressful, emotionally tiring, and wearying. There are times in life when this can happen and God gives us extra grace for those times. But it’s not a situation one should seek out.

Homeschooling surrounds your children with your handpicked approval network as they learn to make godly choices in life. God says that foolishness comes naturally to children (Proverbs 22:15). When your child’s closest friends are immature kids at school, they can be a drag on his or her desire to live biblically. Your child will find himself either constantly fighting his God-given desire for peer approval, or he will give in and be as foolish as his fellow peers at school. Neither choice is healthy.

It is much easier to “go against the flow” of worldliness in our culture when we have a godly team cheering us on. A family and a church body provide that team. Instead of teaching our children that seeking outside acceptance is bad, teach them to seek it from the right places. Their approval network should first be God and next be wise people who will cheer them on to do the right thing.

Written by Heather Sheen

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