Are you familiar with this scenario?: You are at church on a Sunday morning. The service is over and everyone is gathered for fellowship. Adults are drinking coffee; the children are drinking juice and munching on cookies. Your child walks up the table where the drinks and snacks are laid out and reaches for a cookie. You step in and tell her she can’t have a cookie because it will soon be lunch time. (You know from previous experience that if she snacks, she’ll never eat her lunch).
As soon as you say the word, “No,” she drops to the floor in a tantrum. Everyone in the church turns and looks at you. The sound of your child’s screams echo off the walls. Your face reddens as you lean down to speak to your child. You can only imagine what everyone is thinking—and it’s nothing good.
The Idol of Parenting Approval
The idol of approval involves a longing to be accepted by others. It comes from the belief that we must be loved or accepted in order for life to have meaning. When people affirm us, give us attention, and show their approval, we feel good. We feel right. We belong and are important. But when people do not show their approval, we are devastated. We feel empty and meaningless. Worthless.
When we worship the idol of approval, we care most what others think of us. We want them to think highly of us, to like us. For parents, worshipping the idol of approval means we care deeply what other people think of how we are doing in our parenting. Our meaning is dependent upon what they think. We want others to say we are doing a good job. We desire comments approving of our parenting techniques and our children’s behavior. We want compliments on the new dress we bought our daughter or the cute bowtie we purchased for our infant son. We love when people say how integral and important our child is to the soccer team. We love hearing about how bright, polite, well-behaved, or beautiful our child is.
What an approval worshipper fears most is losing the approval of others. We fear their judgment, critique, dislike, and rejection. Because our meaning and worth is wrapped up in what others think, it’s a constant roller coaster. Our value as a person rises and plummets based on the thoughts of others. The Bible calls this the fear of man. “The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD is safe” (Proverbs 29:25).
Peter feared those gathered in the high priest’s courtyard the night Jesus was arrested. He feared what they thought of him and his association with Christ. Each time someone asked him if he knew Jesus, he denied it. “But he began to invoke a curse on himself and to swear, ‘I do not know this man of whom you speak’” (Mark 14:71).
John commented on why people fear man, “Nevertheless, many even of the authorities believed in him, but for fear of the Pharisees they did not confess it, so that they would not be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God” (John 12:42-43, italics mine).
Approved by God
While the approval and acceptance of others comes and goes, God’s love for us is secure. There is nothing and no one who can separate us from Him (Romans 8:38-39). His love for us began in eternity past when he chose us in Christ. Through Christ, he adopted us as his own. We are beloved children of the Father and have all the benefits of a child of the King. As His children, we don’t have to fear (Romans 8:14-15).
In fact, because we are united to Christ, God loves us as much as He loves His Son, “I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me” (John 17:23). Stop for a moment and consider what this means. God loves us as much as he loves the Son. What wonder! Can you wrap your brain around that?
We are loved by the Maker of all things. He approves of us. The approval of others falls flat in comparison. What others think or say about us can never measure up to God’s holy, perfect, and infinite love. The idol of approval never lasts; it is like chasing after the wind. God’s love is forever. The idol of approval depends upon our performance. The approval of others changes depending on whether they like what we’ve done or not. But God’s love and acceptance of us is based on Christ and his perfect performance on our behalf. His love will never wane or fluctuate; it is steady, constant, and sure.
When we worship the idol of approval, we are living like a fatherless orphan. It’s like we’ve forgotten who we are. We’ve left the King’s castle and are living on the street, content with the scraps others give us. All the while, the riches of the Kingdom are within reach. Love immeasurable is ours but we insist on digging in the trash pile. Friends, when the idol of parenting approval tempts you, remember whose you are. Remember your standing in Christ and what God thinks of you. Remember your adoption. Remember you are loved.
Note: This post is inspired by Christina’s new book, Idols of a Mother’s Heart.