Happy Independence?

10 Obviously, I’m not trying to win the approval of people, but of God.  If pleasing people were my goal, I would not be Christ’s servant.

Galatians 1:10 (NLT)

What thoughts or emotions run through you when you think about the displeasure of others?  How has the approval of others influenced your life?  If approval seeking has been a way of life for you, from where did you acquire it?  For some the answer may be family of origin.  For others it may have been a cultural value in the societies from which we originated.  Because some cultures tend to be collectivistic, being validated by the group may have been a desirable quality to possess.  Whatever the origin, we can be sure that there can be conflict between the Western value of individualism and the developed tendency of seeking approval.

At some level, approval seeking is healthy.  It communicates a desire to be constructively compliant.  It enhances the societal fabric that is created when individuals conform to a norm.  The establishment of a norm and our willingness to publicly demonstrate the most minimal variance (from the norm) helps to ascertain and rectify what is “abnormal”.  Being approved of, therefore, has utility.

Approval seeking can also develop into something that is dark, self-seeking, and unhealthy.  When value is attached to the extent to which we are approved of and life’s objective is to receive the validation of ALL, then we step into the area of codependence.  If you are not familiar with this term, it is defined as the need for approval or validation that results in being controlled/manipulated or the control/manipulation of others.  Someone who is codependent is willing to minimize their own values and choices at the expense of their wellbeing and for the purpose of being valued/needed (by others).  In many circles, this is also referred to as “people pleasing”.

In the scripture passage above, Paul demonstrates his resistance to the overwhelming pressure to conform to the heresy that was being spread by Jewish individuals in Galatia.  These individuals wanted to burden new Christians with the requirements of the Jewish law.  Paul was not having it!  In very plain language he communicated how diametrically opposed pleasing people was to pleasing God.  He was not willing to compromise for the sake of validation, belonging or peace.  Pleasing God was his objective.  Punto de final!

For some this discernment comes naturally.  Their upbringing helped them to develop a healthy balance between the validation of self and from others.  That was not the case for me.  My codependence dictated that I

  • be liked by all,
  • smile at all,
  • be delighted to see all,
  • be valued by all,
  • be available to all,
  • be indispensable to all,
  • help all,
  • be an encouragement to all at all times,
  • solve the problems of all,
  • answer the questions of all,
  • help all with their ambivalence towards their goals of which I was aware,
  • be agreeable to all,
  • have my interests/preferences secondary to all,
  • consider all before myself,
  • hide my true impressions, beliefs, and feelings from all

Much of this emanated from the way in which I was raised within the cultural context in which my family of origin existed.  I have come to terms with the extent to which my codependence ruled me.  I had to declare independence from my codependence.  This means I choose the nature of my connection with others, and I never put as secondary my feelings, impressions, attitudes, beliefs and opinions.  Although I strive to love all, I will not attempt to please all.  Like Paul, I always strive to please God. Attempting to please all is an exercise in futility.  I also control the type of person to whom I wish to be deeply connected.  I cannot connect with all.  I give people the same space and freedom, knowing that I will not be connectable to some.

How goes your independence from codependence?  How comfortable are you with displeasing people – whether within or without your inner circle?  If this is a struggle for you, there is help.  Connect with a caring counselor or coach who can help you to craft and implement healthy boundaries.  Your godly purpose demands it!

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