Breaking Approval Addiction: Become Weak

A few weeks ago I preached a message at Cornerstone Baptist Church on the fear of man that made me very nervous.  It wasn’t the sermon itself or a lack of preparation that worried me, but the fact that I struggled personally with the fear of men.

Two weeks earlier when the study for the message began I was already very uncomfortable preaching on a subject that impacted my life in a strong way.  My fears only became stronger when the Lord began leading me to share a personal testimony of how this fear kept me from growing spiritually as a child and teenager, then still impacts my life today.   By the Sunday morning that testimony weighed heavier on my mind than the message itself.

In a way this is a natural response since none of us like to look weak or ask for help.  Unfortunately the fear of embarrassment doesn’t stop there, this desire to be better looking than we actually are can create a lifestyle based on hiding everything that brings us shame or embarrassment.

Well thought out plans such as hiding and spying which consists of hiding weaknesses while looking for faults in others, and masquerade which involves having different personalities or attitudes to fit the different groups of people we are with.[1]  There are of course other ways of dealing with embarrassment or weakness, but they all emphasize our dependence on the acceptance or approval of others.

While not all of us are approval addicts[2]  the core or seed of this struggle is in each of our hearts.  Showing courage or confidence isn’t a problem, as long as we don’t have to reveal a humiliating truth.  And we will serve God with all our heart, as long as He doesn’t ask us to admit we don’t have everything altogether.  The frightening thing is we usually don’t realize the beginnings of approval addiction are there until the Lord reveals it to us.

This doesn’t mean we should do things to humiliate or embarrass ourselves for the Glory of God.[3]  Instead it means we must be willing to look foolish and share a weakness or struggle when the Lord leads us to do so.  This could be serving Him in a way where we are not gifted, sharing the Gospel with a heart of fear, or taking a stand for Christ when nobody else will.

My fear of man message and personal testimony taught me an surprising lesson as well.  People respect those who are willing to be transparent or vulnerable about struggles, usually because they aren’t willing to do so themselves.  So instead of destroying our reputation or relationships with others sharing a moment of weakness strengthens them.   Even in cases where your act of humility isn’t met with the praise of others they will usually respect the bravery and courage.

Its never easy to share those embarrassing or humiliating portions of our lives with others.  But when the Lord challenges us to do so it’s an important step in breaking ourselves free from the chains of approval addiction.

Because of Who He is,

John Wilburn

[1] These and other forms of dealing with shame are found in “When People are Big and God is Small”  by Dr. Ed Welch

[2] An approval addict finds their happiness in the approval of others instead of God

[3] The real problem isn’t about fear at all, but loving man more than God.  John 12:42-43

Published by

John Wilburn

Church planter, teacher, and disciple-maker in Barrouallie St. Vincent

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