Approval: Why we all look for a thumbs up

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Approval is a fascinating aspect of the human psyche.  It seems that we are born with a desire for approval, a desire to have others like us.  From our early childhood, we remember doing things to get our parents’ approval.  We enjoyed hearing our parents brag us up and hated letting them down.  But this desire has not faded over time.  Social media keeps the flame burning.  Facebook is built around the notion of approval.  Good and funny posts will be liked or commented on.  The desire for approval can be instantly gratified by a successful post or a witty comment.  We also find this desire played out as we interact with our peers.  Scholars desire approval from other scholars.  Musicians crave acceptance from other musicians.  People who claim they don’t care to be approved or accepted by society seek approval and acceptance from others who hold the same claim.  Ultimately we all want to be accepted by our peers and superiors.  Approval gives us a sense of belonging and a feeling of significance.

But we come to the question of our article today.  Why?  Any psychologist or casual observer can tell us that we crave approval, but can they tell us why we crave it?  Is there some sort of reason for which the human being would need such a desire?  Does it make him stronger?  No.  Does it increase his survival skills?  Not directly.  Then why do we go through life fawning for attention and acceptance at every juncture?  As a theist I can propose an answer.  I believe that humans were made to have a relationship with their Creator.  We were intended to have the closest friendship with the greatest Friend imaginable – to walk and talk with Him face to face.  We were made for approval, but something happened.  We didn’t want God’s approval.  We shook our fists in His face and went our own way.  The human race chose the approval of the serpent over the approval of God.  And God let us seek approval elsewhere.  He let us set out on the path to nowhere because that was the path that we wanted to follow.  Because of this rebellion man cannot have the approval of God anymore.

Sometimes I consider what a problem I would be in if I were but a theist.  But, you see, I’m not just a theist, I am a Christian theist.  I believe in the solution to the problem of the rebellion against God.  I believe that our desire for approval has been met.  Here’s how it has been fixed.  God saw that humanity had separated itself from Him.  He knew that they would not make a way back to Him, but that He would have to make a way back to them.  He would have to insert Himself behind enemy lines in order to His reconciliation with humanity.  Jesus Christ, fully God, took upon Himself humanity in order to be one of us and to be part of who we are so that He might restore our approval before God.  But there was a twist.

Humanity did not approve of Jesus and they strung Him up like a common criminal.  But this was already the plan of God.  In a strange twist of fate, God allowed His Son to bear the penalty for our failure to accept God in the first place.  In fact, God even rejected His Son Jesus so that we could be accepted as sons and daughters.  Here is the awesome reality regarding our desire for acceptance.  God has provided a solution to our unquenchable desire for acceptance.  At the cross we find the fullness of God’s acceptance in the present and in the future.  All along our petty desires for our peers’ approval has been but a shadow of the approval that was lost in the primeval creation and has been regained in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

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