This is Gary’s story in his own words. “Throughout my life others have had the power to crush and deeply discourage me; sometimes for days. This was and remains one of the biggest strongholds in my life.
“I could talk a lot about my background and how rejection has influenced my commitment to get others to like me. I hoped anyone who reads about my memories and struggle would do so with compassion.
“Pain, however, is not the ultimate problem I’ve had to face in regards to this spiritual battleground. At first glance, my problem of wanting others to like me, may not seem so bad. No one wants to be rejected by others.”
Counsel for Gary Outwardly Gary1 is a good guy. But for the wrong reasons. And wrong motive. He has no freedom. He is a slave. Why?
Because – strange as it may sound – he was an idolatrous person.2 He would not have agreed with that in those days. Most of the time, we can’t “see” ourselves.3 And what was Gary not seeing? His words exposed the idol in his life – himself.
Even people who spend a lot of energy saying, “I do not like myself, no one likes me and everyone hates me, so I am going to eat some worms” are focused on themselves. Gary was focused on Gary. Not so secretly he had a high view of himself. We all come into this world with this myopia.
Highly valuing peoples’ approval, Gary had a correspondingly low view of God’s approval of him. Nor did he value statements from God that he was loved: :
- Ephesians 1:6 “. . . hath made us accepted in the Beloved . . ..” 4
- Romans 1:7 “. . . beloved of God, called to be saints . . . .”
- John 17:22-23 “And the glory which Thou gavest Me I have given them . . . I in them and Thou in Me that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that Thou hast sent Me, and hast loved them as Thou hast loved Me.” KJV
Gary loved his approval rating more than anything else. He would deny that he had an idol in his life, but what are the attributes of worshipping an idol? Attention. Placing high value upon. Cultivating. Thinking about. Being consumed by – that’s what worship is. And that’s what Gary was doing.
So was Gary an idol worshipper? If his hunger for acceptance and human approval drove him, yes. If he was craving human approval, if he was overly conscious of how he presents himself, if he was overly attentive to peoples’ reaction to him, then, yes that would constitute idolatrous behavior.
There’s nothing wrong with making sure your hair is combed, your clothes are clean and you look decent. But if “self” is center-stage, such idolatry needs to move over and God needs to be on the throne of one’s life. By being overly focused on peoples’ approval, Gary failed to find his identity, worth and value in God.
Gary wrote about his attempt to manipulate people into liking him. What basic problem does that reveal? He didn’t think God was sufficient. So Gary needed to understand who God is. In Ed Welch’s book When People are Big and God is Small he said we want our love cup filled. And if we look to people to fill our sense of being loved, we have a high opinion of people and a low opinion of God. As we look to people to lift us up and make us feel worthy, God shrinks. Gary needed a fuller understanding of the Living God and who he is in Christ.
Insight From Gary For Gary “We all long for someone’s acceptance and unconditional love. But this desire is to be met by the Lord Jesus Christ.” This conclusion was the gift of the Holy Spirit to Gary. Jesus is enough.
“In the past, I have depended more on getting others to like and accept me than resting in the truth that God already does. I have given people more power to define my identity and security than God Himself.
“My niceness toward others was often an attempt to manipulate them into liking me. My concern has been to look out for my own interests rather than the interests of others. I’ve been self-centered.
“Consequently, my sin was distrusting God’s sufficiency. I’ve also realized something else — I’ve disobeyed the Holy Spirit’s leading by not speaking truth people needed to hear if I thought they would reject or dislike me for it. My concern has been to look out for my own interests rather than the interests of others. Again, I’ve been self-centered.
“Though I’ve deserved the judgment of God, I’ve received tenderness and forgiveness instead. Real change rarely comes quickly or easily. But I am repenting and becoming more dependent on God instead of people as the years go by. I am still kind toward people, but I am more willing to take risks for their sake because I am coming to believe that God is my refuge and strength.”
Conclusion: While we all enjoy the encouragement of family and friends, our ultimate acceptance comes from God. Our security comes from God. The union of the believer with the Living God gives us identity, security and confidence.
Mindful of Hebrews 6:10 (“God is not unjust. He will not forget your work and the love you have shown Him as you have helped His people and continue to help them”), we press on. While God is never in debt to people, apparently it would be unjust if God did not reward His own. He finds creative ways to do that; e.g. better health, greater contentment, friendships that are most nourishing, good sleep, a richer marriage, more victory over sin, greater delight in simple joys – God can communicate His pleasure.
Summary Conclusion This account of Gary’s life – a true story written in his own words – shares how he was insecure. To gain approval he jumped every time someone wanted something from him. Yet his soul was inadequately nourished by the human praise he received. A healthy wall of poise, confidence and awareness of the measure of faith we enjoy (Romans 12:3)—all comes from God.
- Gary’s spiritual saga toward freedom came to me so long ago, I have no idea who Gary is. Since this was given to me to bless God’s people, I trust Gary would want the reader to benefit from his experience.
- Much of the Counsel for Gary comes from Denise Hardy, Director of Women Ministries at Cornerstone Baptist Church.
- Psalm 19:12, Proverbs14:12, 16:2 and 18:17.
- King James version, but with a capital letter for deity.