Ever bought an item sight unseen? Well, I picked out my first girlfriend that way. Whether I regret it or not is not the point. But then I guess I just told you, didn’t I? My point is to tell you how I arrived at this decision and why it's on my mind now.
So I’m at my locker in Jr Hi when some girl hands me my very first love note. All she said is “It’s from Pippi” “Who’s Pippi?” I asked. But she just smiled and ran off. FYI: Her name isn't Pippi. Names have been changed to protect the ignorant. Me.
As you might expect from a 6th grade boy, I was slow to catch on to Pippi's intentions. "I think that girl gave this to the wrong ‘Jack’. And what’s with all these X’s + O’s?" FYI: I did finally meet her. But I’ll skip that story. Let's just say it didn’t ‘work out’.
But that 1st day I went home not knowing her or her intentions. So I did what any real man does if confused. Ask Mom. She smiled too. But explained Pippi’s intent. And the X’s + O’s. And just like that, I was suddenly ‘in like’! “I have a girlfriend!” And sight unseen! Why? She had a quality I never saw in other girls. She liked me!
It'll sound vain to admit this. But since I am, I will. The people I admire most are those who admire me. And one reason I like God a lot is that He likes me. A lot!
Since I’m pushing the envelope on my likability here, I’ll just go for it. I think it’s amazing that someone as amazing as God actually thinks that I’m amazing! Me!
So do I worship God because of what He thinks of me or because of who He is?
Yes! For I believe it’s love more than anything else that makes God ‘who He is’. Like us, God is known by His heart. In light of what He's like and what I’m like, the fact He loves me as He does tells me more about His heart than anything else could.
And so I love Him. Same with people. We usually love those who love us. And we also tend to like the people who like us. Not including stalkers and psychopaths,
I first titled this ‘The sweet joy of being fully known yet deeply loved’. And I still do believe that a friend’s greatest gift is to know you as you are and love you anyway.
But I think we overlook the power of being liked. It’s fun to be romanced or swept off your feet. But never underestimate the significance of simply being liked. This desire that pulled on us in Jr. Hi is still pulling. Regardless of our age. As adults, we may seek attention or affirmation in less visible ways than kids. But we do seek it.
Why am I giving so much attention to getting attention?
So is it wrong to want attention? Is our desire to be liked, respected and admired a sign of moral weakness, sin, ambition or pride. It certainly can be. But is it always?
Robert Maurer, PHD said we expect kids to say ‘Look at me!’ “Wedon't consider it inappropriate or unhealthy. Yet if an adult spoke the same words”, we would.
“We take for granted that children require attention. But what happens to this need as we grow and become adults? The answer: Nothing changes. The basic human need for attention remains, although sadly, most adults ignore this in both themselves and others.” We may keep this desire hidden, but it’s still there.
This need for attention and desire to be wanted is God-given. In fact, He desires it too. Jer. 2:1-8. While attention is not the same as love, it is one way we express our love. It's a way we connect. And it’s normal to want to connect with those we love. We'll never grow out of it. We all need to be liked. Valued. To feel worthy of love.
There is nothing wrong with wanting love. It would be inhuman not to. The problem is in wanting it too much - if desire for love becomes the center of life. When we want to be loved more than we want to love. Ed Welch
I might add that my need to be loved turns sour if I treasure the praise of men more than God. Or if I focus on what others think of me yet ignore what He thinks. Or focus more on being known than knowing others. Or being seen than seeing.
My own need for love ‘turns sour’ more than I like to admit. Mostly because I turn my focus inward on me. Instead of outward on God or others. And yet if I fixate on me too much, my need for love can easily turn into an unbridled lust for attention.
Why do we think about ourselves so much? Why obsess over how people see us?
For me, it’s insecurity. Here’s a fairly recent example. I removed and replaced this paragraph at least 10 times. Why? It makes me feel insecure to admit I’m insecure.
Joseph Nowinski defines insecurity as “a profound sense of self-doubt, a deep feeling of uncertainty about our basic worth and our place in the world.”
So why do I lack confidence and question my worth?
If I've never been unconditionally loved, I’ll always wonder if I'm worthy of love.
If you know me but ignore me, I’ll wonder if I matter to you. Or if I matter at all. George Bernard Shaw said, ‘The opposite of love is not hate. It’s indifference.’
I also doubt myself because I know stuff about me that you don’t. And what I know makes it hard to love me or be real. For fear you wouldn't love me if you knew me.
If I mistake approval for love, I'll crave it or view disapproval as personal rejection. If I mistake attention for love, I'll find it a cheap substitute. Yet think that all I need is more of it. Since I can’t make people love me, I often settle for attention instead.
If I had to pick one cause of insecurity, I think it’s when a person I love and trust hurts, shames or neglects me. The younger I am, the more likely I’ll see me as they do. If those who matter to me don’t believe I matter, why would I think otherwise?
Most of us believe people matter. That is, people in general. But when it comes to ourselves, some of us aren’t so sure. Everyone can affirm me. Even God. Yet I still reserve the right to judge myself. And I do. And I’m a hard judge. Of myself that is. You can argue in my defense, but I’ll get the last word. And rarely is it a good one.
One of the greatest dangers in the spiritual life is self-rejection. When we say, “If people really knew me, they wouldn't love me”, we choose the road toward darkness. Henri Nouwen
Why darkness? Because I can’t ‘see’ anything as it really is. Especially my heart. Unless I see me as God does, I can’t know me as I am. Nor love me as He loves. Unless I see me as God sees me, I don’t see me rightly. So how can I judge rightly? I don’t judge like God does. His judgment is tempered by His mercy. Mine is not.
Example: As fish filled Peter’s boat, he suddenly realized who this was in His boat. His instinctive response? ‘Depart from me Lord, for I'm a sinful man!’ (Luke 5) Why this response? Peter saw himself unworthy of God based on all he knew of himself.
The verdict: Guilty, sinful. unworthy. The sentence: Be exiled from God's presence. One problem. God doesn’t agree. In fact, He sent His Son to show Peter otherwise. Yes, sin keeps us from God's presence. But it doesn't stop Him from entering ours. Jesus knew Peter was sinful when He called him. Yet He still stepped into his boat.
So what is Jesus’ response to Peter’s self-imposed judgment? He says ‘Don’t be afraid; from now on you will fish for people’. I love how mercy isn't mentioned. It's not absent. But with Jesus, it's a given. No words needed. His presence says it all. Then Jesus cuts to the heart of Peter’s issue. Shame. The belief that he’s unworthy.
How? By giving Peter a glimpse of his future. A vision of partnering with Jesus in bringing men to God. He doesn't see Peter the way Peter sees Peter. Same with us.
So how can I see me as God sees me? We’ll go there in the next post, but here’s one thought. Earlier I asked ‘Why do we lack confidence and question our worth?’ Maybe the real reason that we lack confidence is because we question our worth.
We think we know ourselves better than we do. But wise men are quick to admit they could be wrong. Maybe the way to stop doubting myself is to start doubting myself. What do I mean? If I can't trust my own judgment, why am I my own judge?
We naturally feel that if we think something, it must be true because it comes from within us. But just because you think something does not make it true. Rick Warren
Don't call unworthy what God made worthy by the sacrifice of His Son. Nor what is made in His image. If He felt your life is worth dying for, then it's also worth living for. I've not been given the right or authority to judge myself. Besides, I'm not qualified.
But there is one who is qualified. And He knows us better than we know us. Inside and out. The good and the bad. And He not only loves us. He even likes us! A lot!
Question for Reflection: Have you ever felt shame for wanting to be liked? Why?
NEXT POST: The sweet joy of being liked (Part 2) Not only can God change us, He can change the way we see ourselves. Instead of of ‘how to’ post, I want to share a story of how God is changing my view of me.