We think it’s a kid thing, but it’s not.
We really want to be accepted.
My heart aches when I observe one of my kids hovering on the fringe of a group. Not confident enough to step in, but also not confident enough to contentedly remain out.
Actually, it doesn’t have to be my own kids. Seeing anyone uncomfortably alone in a social setting pains me.
Because it strikes a deep chord of resonance. I’ve been there. Much of my childhood was marked with that outside-of-the-group loneliness.
Adults have circles too. Maybe not at recess, but the circles thrive on Facebook where it’s hard not to compare vacations and Girls Nights Out and the accomplishments of our children.
We may not have the trauma of the school cafeteria, but the break room at work can be daunting.
Here is my golden nugget of saving grace to cover us, young and old, when we feel left out:
Don’t entrust yourself to people.
People are fickle. Sometimes they love you. Sometimes they hate you. It usually has nothing to do with the real you.
The people in Jerusalem saw Jesus’ miracles and believed in Him. As though He were God. Which He was. So, their response was appropriate. Even still, John 2:24 says, “But Jesus would not entrust himself to them, for he knew all people.”
Days later these same people, filled with hate, demanded His death. Just as their approval didn’t move Jesus, neither did their hatred. “When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.” 1 Peter 2:23
So that’s the secret! Don’t entrust your one-and-only, unique, beautiful, beloved self to what others think about you. Entrust yourself to God.
Doing so actually helps me love people better. I am less swayed by approval and more able to see people clearly and love them deeply.
It may sound arrogant to hold people’s opinions of me so loosely, but I’ve found that it actually requires a great deal of humility. It requires that I take my eyes off of myself. And that I be content when I’m not the center of attention. As an extrovert I instinctively crave the spotlight. But there is great freedom in stepping out of that light and turning the eyes of my heart on others. Such relief when I seek to be a conduit of God’s love instead of seeking my own status and acceptance.
In My Utmost For His Highest, Oswald Chambers writes, “Our Lord trusted no man; yet He was never suspicious, never bitter, never in despair about any man, because He put God first in trust; He trusted absolutely in what God’s grace could do for any man. If I put my trust in human beings first, I will end in despairing of everyone; I will become bitter, because I have insisted on man being what no man ever can be- absolutely right. Never trust anything but the grace of God in yourself or in anyone else.”
So, my desire to be quiet in His presence deepens. I inhale His presence slowly as I crack open His Word and hear Him whisper. It is my oxygen mask. My source of pure air. An unexpected reprieve from the dank mustiness of seeking approval.
And as my soul fills up, I’m able to be content with or without the acceptance of people. The abundant love I have received overflows onto others.
Richard Foster explains in his book Celebration of Discipline, “We can cultivate an inner solitude and silence that sets us free from loneliness and fear. Loneliness is inner emptiness. Solitude is inner fulfillment…. if we possess inward solitude we do not fear being alone, for we know that we are not alone. Neither do we fear being with others, for they do not control us.”
As I become comfortable with who I am, alone and quiet with Him, I have freedom to humbly sit on the outside and watch for opportunities to love people.
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