“No one else can paint your portrait from an unobstructed view.”
– J.J. Heller, singer and songwriter
You will never come in contact with anyone who will completely accept you and approve of everything you do. This universal truth seems simple enough, but there is an inner drive within each of us to be accepted by other people and to have them approve of our actions.
A few months ago, I was given the opportunity to share with a person I’ll refer to as “Tom.” I have a lot of respect for Tom, so I mentioned an idea that I was thinking of pursuing, which I thought would be well-aligned with my gifts and strengths. I don’t believe that he meant any harm by his response, but he basically said that I shouldn’t expect much to come from it and that I should not quit my day job.
Picture a balloon losing its air through a poorly tied knot; that was me at that moment.
His intent was probably to help me stay grounded in reality, since I tend to be a dreamer, so to some extent I can understand his comments. However, what I had hoped to hear was the applause of approval from him, saying that I should go for it and that I had what it took to do it.
Every one of us has been in a situation where we were disappointed after sharing an idea or a lifestyle choice with someone we respect, and hearing less than the applause we had hoped for. This doesn’t mean that we never seek advice from others, especially those who have had more years of experience, but there is a vast difference between seeking advice, and seeking approval.
The real issue for me regarding my conversation with Tom was not his comments but how much stock I had put in them. I gave them more value than they were worth. Tom does not have all the the information needed to see my life with an “unobstructed view.” Only God can do that, so it is important that I don’t give divine-like significance to anyone else’s opinion, no matter how good of a person they are.
Does this mean that God won’t use others to speak to us about where he is leading us? Certainly not. But it does mean that we need to know the essential difference between the voice of God, who already approves of us in Christ, and the applause of other people, who can mislead even with the best of intentions.