We read about approval ratings of local, national, and world politicians all the time.
What about yourself? Do you sometimes feel you need to have a good approval rating? Everyone wants to be well liked. We want family and friends to be happy with what we're doing. But what if they aren't? Should we take this into account when making decisions?
I struggled with this question recently when I faced some decided disapproval from a co-worker. She wasn't happy with the way I was doing things. In fact, she threatened to quit because of me. I had just made some significant organizational changes at work, ones that many other co-workers had responded to positively. And I had just headed up an area-wide project that met with enormous approval. So what was I supposed to think about this one individual's opinion?
Upset, I went home for the day and took some quiet time to try to think. Actually, I prayed. I consider prayer to include adjusting my thoughts and striving for a new perspective, a spiritual perspective. At first it didn't seem like effective prayer! I felt so put upon and unappreciated. But I remembered reading the biblical account of the betrayal, trial, and crucifixion of Christ Jesus.
It's not that I'm comparing my work situation to the career of Jesus. But as a Christian, I know his life sets an example to follow. The textbook of Christian Science says of Jesus: "Through the magnitude of his human life, he demonstrated the divine Life. Out of the amplitude of his pure affection, he defined Love. With the affluence of Truth, he vanquished error. The world acknowledged not his righteousness, seeing it not; but earth received the harmony his glorified example introduced" (Mary Baker Eddy, "Science and Health With Key to the Scriptures," Pg. 54).
It occurred to me suddenly that Jesus didn't always have that high an approval rating! In fact, he didn't seek after one. He performed the tasks given him by God without complaint or shirking. He suffered not only the disapproval of strangers but also that of his own students, most of whom deserted him, one of whom betrayed him. Even though Jesus did not meet with universal approval, he spent his time healing people. The good that he did couldn't be overshadowed - not even by crucifixion; his resurrection proved the power of all that he'd been teaching.
I began to see that Jesus didn't become the victim of discouragement, because he knew that human opinion, animosity, and even adoration all remain human. They don't affect the only judgment that really matters - God's. Jesus' real approval rating, and ours too, rest with the assessment of God alone. When we obey God as best we can (as I'd been doing), we line up with His approval of us, which is always 100 percent. He maintains us as His spiritual likeness (see Genesis 1:26).
I realized I had been patting myself on the back quite a bit because of the positive feedback I'd been getting, which made this one instance of disapproval such a shock. What I needed to remember was that God's view of me had never changed. Nothing I did could alter that view. I am His beloved child, with a direct connection to Him. He rejoices in the way each of us individually expresses Him. As I reasoned, prayed, this way, I began to feel loved - not by a human being but by God. I began to see that God's approval is unavoidable; it's natural for God to be pleased with His own creation. And God, being perfect, can create only that which is perfect. What's not to like?
Reassured that my true approval rating was intact, I was able to look objectively at the circumstances that had led my co-worker to be angry with me. Buoyed by the conviction that we were and are both eternally loved by one God, I no longer took her comments personally. I also stopped clinging pridefully to practices in our organization that needed to be refined. Several key issues that I hadn't been effectively addressing were soon resolved. Our progress was rapid.
Relying on the sense of direction and approval that comes from God is a huge step in the journey of spiritual progress. I wish you well on your own journey!