I’ve spent more than a week discussing how we desire approval and validation in our lives. It’s a common and basic longing, but there was a lot to unpack on the subject. Let’s review some of the lessons we’ve learned along the way.
Our Need for Validation and Approval)
It might seem vain for us to need constant validation and approval, and we might have spent quite some time trying to squash those emotions because we viewed them as being beneath us. But this is the same as trying to deny any of our other basic needs. Just as we need food and rest for our bodies, we also have requirements for our emotional health, including these. If you didn’t need some sense of validation in your life, then your heart wouldn’t keep longing for it.
And just as how we can satiate our physical hunger with food that is bad for us, so too we can seek out unhealthy forms of validation. Acknowledging that our hearts need validation is not the same as saying that all validation is worthy. Demanding fame and attention are perhaps the most detrimental ways of dealing with this need, but there are other mistaken ways to deal with it as well. Perhaps the most common of these is tying our peace and happiness to the responses of those in our immediate vicinity. Allowing ourselves to be miserable unless one, specific person gives us a kind word puts us in their power in a way that we never should.
During this study we considered the two kinds of validation and approval that are actually a good thing to pursue, and fortunately each is entirely within our power to obtain.
Approval of Self)
The first method we discussed was to approve and validate your very own self. This means taking the time out of our day to look yourself in the mirror, verbalize all the good things that you have seen yourself do, and express appreciation to yourself for how you are helping your own life and the life of others.
Self-validation also means recognizing our behaviors that we do not approve of and overcoming them. Paul recognized this reality of people betraying their own conscience when he said, “For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I” (Romans 7:15). So long as we are disappointed with our own behavior then we are never going to feel fully approved or validated, no matter what affirmation we might hear from others.
Of course, overcoming our evil nature not only brings a sense of self-approval, it also invites the one other kind of approval that is healthy to pursue.
For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ. - Galatians 1:10
In this verse Paul denounces the idea of seeking man’s approval, but he does promote seeking the approval of God. And what a relief, as this is actually the far more straightforward target to hit. Playing for the applause of the world means constantly altering one’s behavior to the ever-shifting demands of society. The way to satisfy God, however, has always remained the same. We must keep his commandments.
However, as we discussed earlier, obeying the commandments as they are written is not all that we must do. They provide an essential foundation and will bring a sense of validity in and of themselves, but upon that base we are supposed to actively build. We must put good into the world, taking our talents and using them to shine a light to others. It is in this combination of obedience and righteous productivity that I have felt the greatest sense of validation and approval in my life by far.
I also took some time to discuss that we can cultivate our ability to hear God’s approval of us. It may be that He has been trying to express His appreciation for some time, but He has been speaking in a language that you haven’t recognized. I suggested getting into the habit of seeing all that is beautiful in this world as a way of God telling you directly that He sees you, that He loves you, and that He appreciates what you are doing. If you come across something that seems to uniquely bring you joy, something that touches your heart more than the hearts of others, then consider it a gift from a Father who knows you perfectly and give gratitude for it. The more you give gratitude for these moments, the more you’ll start seeing these “love notes” placed all around you.
Like many things, validation and approval represent a two-edged sword. On the one hand we can become obsessed with shallow counterfeits, chasing never-obtainable ideals. And even if we did achieve the constant attention of loved ones and the highest fame of the world, we would find ourselves still dissatisfied even so.
But on the other hand, there is such a thing as real validation and real approval. It is when we receive these gifts from our own selves and from God. It is here that genuine satisfaction occurs, that our anxieties are stilled, and we finally repose in peace. This is what it means to live life richly and with contentment, a richness and contentment that the world can never take from us, for the world never gave it to us to begin with.
Our desire for validation and approval were given to us for a reason. Not to be a source of perpetual frustration, but to lead us to eternal glory. Hopefully the principles we’ve discussed here can be helpful for you in your journey. They’ve certainly been helpful to me.