We all have had the Lord challenge us to do things that push the limits of our comfort zones and force us to face things we are afraid of. For me one of those things is to write a story loosely based upon my past struggle as an Approval Addict, or someone who has to be loved by others in order to have confidence.
For a long time I refused to do this because this project would share how that addiction impacted my life, and I didn’t feel confident in my writing skills but the Lord continued challenging me to do this. So a few weeks ago the first instalment of A Lifetime of Afternoon Naps was put online, you can find it here. Its my prayer that this story can give hope to the other recovering Approval Addicts like me.
The outgoing “Mr popularity” that his friends knew in HIgh School and University was very different from Steve’s personality as a child. He was the kid who would hide behind his parents when anyone tried to talk with him, and stayed in a corner happily playing by himself instead of interacting with other children. Later that introverted attitude revealed itself in Steve’s being very shy around people he didn’t know, but once becoming friends he would take great joy in entertaining them.
Strangely even though he struggled with face to face conversation God blessed Steve with the ability to be what he called an entertainer, which meant Steven loved to do anything in front of large crowds. That gift along with an energetic personality and ability to make people laugh became his source of comfort, strength, and a way to cover up the shyness that he was so embarrassed by. This plan worked beautifully during High School as Steve left as the most popular student there even though he never played any sports, but it was during University that his Mr Popularity persona really paid off.
The freedom of University gave dozens of entertainment opportunities and he was careful to use each one. There were hours spent at the student center playing ping-pong and video games, late night soccer and basketball games, drama classes, skits announcements for chapel and other meetings, but more than anything else he looked forward to lunch. He loved entertaining a table full of friends during lunch, which normally lasted for about an hour and a half, only about fifteen minutes of which was spent eating. Almost every day he could be found holding court at one of the largest tables (which when Steve and his friends were there became known as the party table) laughing loudly and trading stories.
The four years of university where the happiest in his life because of the popularity that Steve enjoyed and the fact that nobody was able to see the shy introverted portion of his life, but the end of his Senior year was a serious turning point in Steve’s life. Though he didn’t realise it then this choice would affect him years later while living with his parents. Following graduation Steven had a opportunity to begin working in an office at the University in their Admissions Department which he quickly accepted. In his mind this job would help continue the party lunches and relationships which had become such a huge part of his life, but it didn’t take long the next Fall to realize things weren’t the same.
It wasn’t that Steve’s friends purposely moved on and forgot him. But only being able to be together during lunch caused them to drift apart, soon the party lunches he had looked forward to instead became empty experiences that lasted less than half an hour and had none of the old energy. After two months of trying to revive the old relationships Steve realised he had a choice to make. “Do I focus on my work and move on from the party table phase? Or should I find a new group of people to use as my source of strength”?
In his heart Steve knew it was time to grow up and move away from the entertainment lifestyle he loved so much. But all of his life that cycle of making friends and becoming the life of the party had brought fulfillment and he had it pretty much down to a science. Plus without the Mr Popularity persona people may see him as he really was, a non athlete who struggled with low self-esteem. Like so many young adults before him facing hard work and comfort he chose the easy road and created relationships with the younger university students thereby creating a new group to entertain. Steve came to the realisation that he had to be accepted and loved by people and the best way to do this was continue doing what had been his identity for so long.
It wasn’t until three years later when the second phase of friends where now graduating that Steve realised the foolishness of his decision. He had worked just hard enough to get by at the office so while everyone else who started with him had been promoted Steve was left with the same job description. That’s when he started to hear Satan’s voice of discouragement for the first time.
That voice which pointed out all the time that had been wasted over the last three years and how little he had grown had become a constant presence in Steve’s life. He knew this discouragement came from the Devil who didn’t want him to grow spiritually but that didn’t make it any easier to endure.
The fact is he had chosen to prolong his teen years and embrace what experts call kidulthood by doing what was fun and comfortable instead of exhibiting discipline. So now when trying to serve the Lord Steve is attacked with statements like “its too late to try to do the right thing!”, “its too hard!”, or “you wasted too much time already”, and “you can’t do it anyways.” And eventually he started listening to those excuses………