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