Sunday, June 22, 2014

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“I Am Who I Am in Jesus Christ. God’s Approval Is Needed!”

          I was browsing on FaceBook and came across a poster with a picture of a rather smug looking fellow bearing the following caption at the bottom: 

“I Am Who I Am.  Your Approval Is Not Needed!”

I began to reflect upon the question of whether or not that was really a good attitude to apply to ones life?  My first reaction was to agree with it.  It seemed to be an attitude that would aptly support good self esteem and confidence.  But then I tried to delve into the possible consequences that might occur if I personally might choose to live my life based on such an assumption.  I thought on the one hand that it was good to accept myself as I am, and not be swayed by what other people might think of me one way or the other.  But then I looked at the thought provoking statement from a different point of view.  Is it possible that this attitude could wind up producing a person who would become self centered and totally prideful?    Had he begun to view himself as the picture of perfection, feeling superior to all others; thus, others would just have to accept his superior status, and if there was any need for change it must necessarily be their need to change and none of his own. 

          Have you heard this statement made.  “I’m stuck in my ways and I’ll never change”?  It is conveying an attitude very similar to the caption on the picture. It seems the person holding such an attitude has convinced himself that others are obligated to accept him the way he is with a “take me or leave me” attitude, or “like it or lump it.”  “No one can tell me what to do!”  What kind of relationships with others is such a person most likely to develop?  It is conceivable that a person who is so unwilling to change would then automatically require all others in his life to submit to his views in order to please his ego.  He/she might become so self centered that he has developed an inability to have any consideration for the needs and desires of others.

          It could be that this learned behavior developed over a period of time in his life as a result of feeling that others cared so little about him, and in order to make himself less vulnerable to hurt from others, he would first withdraw from investing any real part of himself in relationships with others.  In his way of thinking, this would make it impossible for others to ever hurt him again.  He would make others his victim instead of the other way around.  In the end, what he has really accomplished is closing off his own ability to truly love others or recognize and receive love from others.  Instead, his/her idea of love will become based entirely upon a self centered attitude of “what’s in it for me?” or “what have you done for me lately?”  Anyone who tries to have a relationship with such a person will most likely wind up living on a starvation diet of little crumbs of carefully doled out semblances of affection that are never really given out of true love, but once again imparted, either consciously of unconsciously with a motivation of getting something for themselves.  Often the person on the receiving end of this kind of a relationship begins to believe that their lack of being loved must be caused by something they themselves are doing or not doing.  They ‘learn’ that somehow they must not be worthy of being loved.  They will spend their lives trying to earn love and approval from someone who is neither able to give nor receive true love.      Hopefully, one day he/she may learn that the problem does not lie entirely within their self, and their efforts will never be enough to fix, change, or replace the piece that is missing in the one they are seeking to please.  Apart from a miracle, all is in vain and is wasted effort.  Often the controlling and self centered person hurts and harms the other person in the relationship, and out of sheer self defense, not having learned how to deal with the situation in a more positive way; the abused begins to turn into the same kind of person as their abuser.  The abused then often turns into an abuser and begins to turn others into victims.  It is continued and passed on to others in a vicious circle.  In such relationships, it seems that the way of escape from being the victim or becoming a victimizer is to extricate ones self from the relationship all together.  One must seek help in order to become well and whole once again and free so as not to carry the same old baggage into future relationships.   Some are able to go to counseling to work things out and bring healing to the relationship.  But that is only successful when both are willing to do whatever it takes ‘in a healthy way,’ to promote mutual healing for one another.  If only one of them is willing to do the ‘homework,’ then reconciliation and restoration is not a possibility.

          Unfortunately, some will choose to stay in such relationships to the bitter end.  They get stuck in the poor me victim mode never choosing to take responsibility for their own actions and choices.  Those who have made it out had to be willing to take positive action to overcome the fear or whatever it was that held them captive to their situation.  It takes courage and a willingness to admit our own mistakes instead of always blaming others for the conditions of one’s life.  Some will choose to stay in their miserable situation simply because it seems simpler and easier to stay in the ‘known’ than it is to step out on their own to face the ‘unknown.’  Maybe it’s out of fear of being alone, or even an unwillingness to have to truly work and learn to support and be responsible for ones self.  Choosing to remain a victim and continuing to blame others will forever block any pathway out of the past to progress towards a better future.  It’s as if they choose to stay in a perpetual state of misery rather than admit to themselves that they are at least partially responsible for their own situation. Believe me, I know first hand that facing my own demons was hard, and trying to rid my life of them is still a continuing battle that requires not only a desire to change but hard work to do so.  I have fallen flat on my face and had to pick myself up and run to the arms of Jesus to seek His forgiveness and ask his help to start all over again.  Change doesn’t happen without a commitment on our part to learn from God, and then obedience to apply what He has taught us until His ways become the normal response for us.  Learning when and how to discipline has been a particularly hard lesson for me to learn. For some, it seems as if being a consistent and responsible disciplinarian is a thing that has just come to them naturally.  For me it was always hard and something I had to continually try to learn and relearn.  Finding that right balance between being strict or too lenient was difficult.  Plus, I always had to battle against reacting in anger in the heat of the moment instead of disciplining with wisdom and patience.  I do not regret disciplining my children or students, but I have had plenty to regret in the way I may have administered it.  There is always a balance that should be kept.  I did not always do that, and I have profusely asked God’s forgiveness and forgiveness from others.  Personal responsibility is very closely related to being honest with the Lord, confessing our sins, and repenting and turning away from it.  Any of us can choose to lie to ourselves and God by trying to put the blame for our sin on someone else.  I could easily find excuses and ways to place blame on others for my own failings.  I could say that I didn’t use wisdom and patience as I should have because my husband had to be on the road and I was stressed out by having to be both mother and father for much of that time.  That might sound like a pretty good excuse, but it just won’t hold water.  I could say I just didn’t know any better, but that won’t stand by itself either.  I can say, I did seek help and tried to learn a better way.  That did help and I did learn, but I can not say that I always applied what I had learned.  I couldn’t abdicate my responsibility to discipline, for that would have been treating my children and students as if they were strangers, and no responsibility of mine.  Failing to reach the mark is never an excuse to stop trying to learn and trying to change.  I thank God for His mercy and grace.  Not until we truly tell God we are sorry, ask His forgiveness, and then ask Him to help us turn away from wickedness and give no further place to the devil will we ever be able to get free of the very thing that is holding us captive.   

          Not being a psychologist or marriage counselor, I can’t truly advise others who may find themselves in miserable and difficult situations of continual disappointment.  My advice would be to seek a thoroughly well educated and experienced Christian counselor, and a good support group depending upon what your need is.  Lack of effort will only contribute to the continuation of the problems until they build upon one another, and embed you deeper into the grasp of their miry clay.  One thing is for sure; do not get involved with people who will help make excuses for you enabling you to stay in the poor me poor victim mode.  Don’t seek the company of those who may be wallowing in the same misery as you are, as they will be more inclined to tell you what you want to hear, instead of what you need to hear.  Do get involved with a group that may have been in a similar situation, but have been successful in finding their way out in a prosperous, successful, and healthy manner.  There are many who claim to be counselors, but few are fully equipped to do so with much good and lasting success.  Some will be satisfied to keep you coming back as often as they can simply out of their own greed, to line their pockets.  I have known some counselors who even used their position to prey on the victims that sought their help, victimizing the victim all over again.  Be a wise advocate for your own wellbeing, but don’t chose to do nothing to improve your situation for then you really have no one else to blame but yourself.  The best and most important place to start is on your knees before the Lord God who loves you more than anyone else ever could or ever will.

          Refuse to stay a victim, for it can only lead to further misery and the strong possibility of becoming an abuser and victimizer of others yourself.  Choosing to live life with the attitude that whatever you have become is because someone else made you that way may sound like a pretty good excuse, but in reality it’s an absolute lie.  An adult can make better choices.  In most cases, others can only control you to the level of power that you give them to do so.  The old adages of “You don’t know what my life is like” and “Of course that’s easy for you to say or do; you don’t have to endure what I do,” just don’t cut the mustard.  If they did, no one would have ever been able to find their way out of conditions that have been similar or even worse than yours.

          Anyone can be tempted to fall into the deception of the attitude of “I am who I am.  I don’t need your approval.”  It has just enough truth in it to hide the lie.  “I am who I am” overlooks the fact that there is always room for improvement and thus a need for change.  I do believe that what 'should' concern you and me, is the necessity to be willing to see ourselves with honesty, realizing that none of us is perfect, but will always be in need of correction for improvement.  In addition, and equally important, is the need to be willing to change in order to become a better person tomorrow, than I am today.  The only person that you have the power to change is yourself.  Waiting for someone else to change to become something that you want them to be is an exercise in futility.  I do advocate that you pray with others.  But if you want a real legitimate change in your life, it has to begin in you, regardless of whether someone else ever changes or not. Of course, I am speaking for myself when I pray that I might learn to submit my will to the much wiser will of Jesus, my Lord and Savior, always desiring that He would melt me and mold me more and more into His image. "Let the meditations of my heart, and the words of my mouth be pleasing in Thy sight." "Search me O God and see if there be any wickedness me" and remove it far from me.   

          There is also some truth in the statement that as far as who or what I am, “I don’t need your approval.” Concerning that part, what is my personal conclusion?  According to the word of God, I am not supposed to be conformed to the world.  May I forever do my best with God’s help to resist the devil, my flesh and the world (people and their opinions and attitudes contrary to the word of God).  Help me Lord not to yield to their manipulation based upon that which is approved of by them, for in so doing I will have given more importance to what pleases man over and above that which is pleasing to God. I may even find favor in the world, but I will have lost my soul. I will have gained something of temporary value only.  I may gain the favor of the temporary world, but at the expense of loosing the far greater hope of eternity and all that God has promised to all who will choose to believe, follow, and obey Him.

          As I learn to have the mind of Christ (to think and act as He does) through the renewing of my mind by the washing of the water of the Word of God, by the power of the Holy Spirit. May He continue to do that good work which He has begun in me. May He forever perform His will in me that I might not become what I think is good in my own eyes.  Enable me Lord to become all that You have planned and designed me to be, in Your sight.  Only that which is pleasing in the sight of God has any eternal value.  So, in the end, while it may be true that I don’t need man’s approval for who or what I am, it is most definitely true that I do need and desire God’s approval of who and what I am.  It is true that I should not think more highly of my self than I do of others.  If I want to be first, I should be willing to be a servant to others and put my self last, not as a doormat for others to wipe their feet, but rather as an instrument of His love and forgiveness towards others.  I should be willing to do unto others as I would have them do unto me; love thy neighbor as thyself.   It is through seeking God and His righteousness that He will help me become all that He has planned and designed me to be that I may glorify and magnify Him in thought, word, and deed..  He alone knows what is for my best, and it is His delight to bless me with the gift of eternal life and the glories of His eternal presence.  Let us not be deceived by the use of partial truth mixed with lies.  To put the truth, and whole truth back into the original statement, I would choose to revise it: “I Am Who I Am in Jesus Christ.  (Man’s approval is not a necessity, but) God’s Approval Is Needed.”  Both are a continual process that is worked out from day to day as you and I yield our spirit in cooperation with all that He wants to do in me and you, by the power of His word and Holy Spirit.  May you choose to join in this prayer with me: Lord Jesus, let change begin in me!


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