6th January 2021

Is your life controlled by the fear of disapproval?

If you struggle to step out into new things, be yourself in relationships, share your opinion freely or even pray out loud at church, maybe you are struggling with the fear of disapproval.

This particular fear can be a powerful force of control in our lives causing us to lose confidence in making decisions and restricting our ability to grow as individuals and in our faith. We can become overly concerned about what others might think or say about us and either strive for approval or shrink back from opportunities when they arise.

What is disapproval and is it always a negative thing?

Disapproval is simply the expression of a negative opinion of someone or something. This isn’t necessary a bad thing. God disapproves of sin and good parents disapprove of the wrong behaviour of their children. This kind of disapproval helps keep us on track in life and able to follow God’s ways. It is not aimed at the person but rather the behaviour.

Disapproval turns toxic when it becomes personal.

Disapproval turns toxic when it becomes personal. Then it comes from a place of pride, anger, mockery or jealousy. There is no intention to build someone up but rather to tear them down and often humiliate them. When we are on the receiving end of this, we can easily believe there is something wrong with us – we are defective somehow, incapable or just not good enough. Such beliefs, lead us to build defensive behaviours which damage trust and instil suspicion, fear and anxiety.

An equally powerful form of disapproval is the failure or refusal of someone significant in our lives to give their approval. In some ways this is less obvious but the lack of encouragement has the same impact and we can be consumed with both the imaginations of how the person disapproves of us as well as having a longing to hear encouraging words.

a strong foundation of security

God made us all with a basic need to be seen, heard and accepted; He made us to be approved of by those who should love and care for us. This need exists from our earliest moments of life and, when met, enables us to grow emotionally, mentally and spiritually; providing a strong foundation of security on which to build our lives. However, if parents, teachers, friends, and later in life bosses, leaders or friends disapprove of us rather than build us up it can have a significant impact.

The fruit of disapproval: Striving or hiding

If left unresolved, the pain of disapproval causes us to fear it happening again and this in turn causes us to either strive or hide. Striving means we are putting every effort into what we are doing but with the underlying motivation of gaining approval whereas hiding means we are unwilling to step out at all because by doing nothing we protect ourselves from being disapproved of.

Neither of these options is healthy and both are motivated by fear: a fear that controls. One controls us with feelings of panic, drivenness, stress and people-pleasing and the other controls us because we are constantly pulling back in relationships and work, avoiding taking initiative and trying new things.

Moving from fear to freedom

God wants us to grow and to be fruitful. He is aware of the fears that hold us back and He is able and willing to heal us of the pain of past disapproval so that we can start to step out in freedom and peace.

He is aware of the fears that hold us back and He is able and willing to heal us

The truth is that the people we most long to receive approval from (and from whom we most dread disapproval) are the ones that we are in relationship with and often have authority over us. This is where our challenge is to move from being people-fearing and people-pleasing to God-fearing and God-pleasing.

“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

Here are some practical steps we can take with God to move in that direction:

  1. Grieve the loss of what you missed
    You can be honest with yourself and with God about the lack of approval from significant people in your life (family members, teachers, etc.) and acknowledge you may have also starved yourself of self-approval as a result.
  2. Forgive those who disapproved of you
    We can choose to forgive those who have hurt us through their wrong disapproval. Be specific about what you are forgiving and ask God to give you the strength and courage to release them into the freedom of your forgiveness.
  3. Confess and repent of any wrong responses
    Even when we are wronged, we can respond in ways that are ungodly and it is important that we confess that to God and ask for His forgiveness. It may be that there is judgement in your own heart against the people who have disapproved of you. Or maybe you have used criticism as a defence. It might be that you have rejected yourself and see yourself as no good. Pray through whatever God puts on your heart to put right with Him.
  4. Break the power of the words over your life in Jesus name
    It may be that specific words were spoken over you. Things like: ‘You’re no good’, ‘You’re a terrible person’ etc. These are not words that God would agree with and so you can forgive and then, in Jesus’ name, break the power of those words over your life. Maybe you need to take time to ask God to show you if there is anything specific you need to pray about in this area.
  5. Tell the fear to go!
    In the name of Jesus tell the fear of disapproval and the fear of what people think to go. Be bold in your declaration of freedom from this fear and ask God to fill you with His Holy Spirit and His peace.
  6. Step out in new freedom
    Ask the Lord to give you new boldness to be who He made you to be so that you can step into things without striving or hiding. Take conscious steps to try new things, trust people more easily and learn to live without the expectation of disapproval.

So, we can confidently say: “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?”

Hebrews 13:6

Ellel Ministries By Ellel Ministries

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