Nurturing relationships with others March 4, 2012
Luke 2:52 "And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men."
You might ask, what does “growing in favor with men” really mean? Other passages in the scriptures encourage us to not be worried about what others think about us and their opinions of us. A close look at the life of Jesus reveals that he lived in relation to others with healthy boundaries, loving them, but not looking for his sense of value and worth from them. This is a great model for us to follow.
Most Christians, when first asked where their value and worth come from, will immediately answer “God.” We all know the “right” answer. But our inner most thoughts and emotions often indicate that we have a deeper belief that we need the approval of men. If you doubt this, just watch how your respond internally when someone criticizes you or responds negatively to you. Do you feel that little “sting” of rejection, or resentment that they don’t like you, or that you can’t quite “please” them? You might have the thought “They really don’t like me, and I don’t know why.” Another typical thought is “What did I do wrong for you to be so upset with me?” The internal dialogue begins and there is a rehearsing of “I said,” “ or ” he/she said,” followed by trying to rationalize what has happened and why they responded that way. Depending on personality and life experiences, a person usually either gets angry or irritated (at least internally, and sometimes externally), then feels hurt. That results in either avoiding the offending person (if possible) or expressing your anger to them.
When I entered my 30s, I discovered in my own life that I looked to people for approval and value. Up until that time, I had been fairly successful at gaining the approval of others–at least those who matter the most to me. But I began to encounter people that I could not “win over.” It was stressful as I struggled with being hurt by their responses, forgiving them, and then being hurt all over again. Across time God began to reveal to me that it was impossible to please all people, and not even really necessary, because my real worth and value come from Him. Many times people respond negatively to us simply because of issues they are struggling with. They are not able to respond positively because they had a fight with their spouse that morning, or their teen is in trouble, or they just don’t feel good. If my value and worth is dependent on someone else giving me approval – which usually is dependent on how their day is going– I am going to have many days that I don’t have much value or worth.
God tells us He values us so much that He sacrificed His only Son so we could have a relationship with Him. He wants a relationship with us. The greatest measure of value and worth for us is that someone wants to know us–know our thoughts, desires, hurts and pains, and understand what is going on with us–good or bad. God is like that. He wants to know what we think and how we feel and what we desire. And, of course, He wants that to be mutual. He wants us to want to know what He thinks, and what His desires are. He is so interested in us that He even knows things about us that we don’t know–like how many hairs are on our head. He knows when we get up, when we lie down, and where we are going. He knows what we are going to say before we do. He knows what is in my heart that even I am blind to at times. Even though He knows us better than any one else that ever lived, He still loves us perfectly. Wow! He values us!
So, when I feel that little “sting” because a person seems to be upset with me (and I haven’t done the wrong thing or responded the wrong way and need to confess and ask forgiveness), the first truth I need to focus on is “It is ok if he/she is upset with me. My true value and worth comes from God.”
Why would this make your relationships with others healthier? If I don’t have to have the approval of others, it frees me to love them no matter how they respond to me. I think this is why Jesus was able to love others so completely–even his enemies. He was very secure in His Father’s love. Twice in the New Testament God spoke out loud about Jesus, and each time He affirmed that “This is my Son with Whom I am very pleased.” Jesus knew the only One he had to please was God, His Father.
Learn to be content with the Father’s pleasure, and you will be set free! Even if someone treats you in an unkind or unloving way, you will be set free to respond in love because you don’t have to have their approval.