The approval that counts most

A Christian Science perspective: On seeking approval.

Recently I was reminded of a time a number of years ago when a friend alerted me not to be dragged down by a desire to win others’ approval. She discerned a need on my part for a spiritually impelled shift in thought, for a deeper recognition that happiness and well-being are actually the outcome of our indestructible relation to God as His offspring.

She shared a Bible reference with me. Christ Jesus said to those who didn’t believe in his message and mission, “How can ye believe, which receive honour one of another, and seek not the honour that cometh from God only?” (John 5:44). My friend was reminding me to seek God’s approval above all else.

Of course, it’s appropriate that we aim to please an employer when what we’re doing is in line with a constructive purpose and moral behavior. It’s appropriate to value others and show appreciation for them. And it’s appropriate that we feel valued. But the basis of feeling worthy has to do with God’s unwavering love for His children, which far transcends the variableness of personal approval.

There may be times when people lower their standard of behavior for the sake of popularity. When I was in the entertainment field, it became pretty clear to me that many performers sacrificed quality for the desire to achieve popular acceptance, which they felt would bring success. And in many walks of life people may deviate from their highest sense of right in the belief that it will make them feel included. While this may appear to work in the short term, it can’t yield any lasting benefit, and there’s a reason: It’s not compatible with what actually results in a satisfying life.

An important message of the Bible is that individual well-being, and the prosperity of humanity as a whole, relates to honoring God. The Scriptures speak of God as Spirit, Love, and Truth (see, for example, John 4:24; I John 4:8; and Deuteronomy 32:4, respectively). Living more in accord with the purity of Spirit, the gentleness and kindness of Love, and the honesty that derives from Truth, honors God and is beneficial beyond what may be outwardly apparent.

Christian Science helps one see that such living is actually the most natural thing in the world, because our genuine being – the way God actually made us – expresses in an individual way all that characterizes the divine nature. Speaking of everyone’s real, spiritual identity, Mary Baker Eddy, the Founder of Christian Science, wrote, “Man is the expression of God’s being” (“Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” p. 470).

The Bible also teaches that God is good (see Psalms 34:8). And it offers this invaluable truth: “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning” (James 1:17). So even the good that comes from others’ appreciation of the qualities we express, or of a job well done, has a divine source.

I’ve often looked to people for approval. Most of us probably have. It’s natural – and often reassuring and beneficial – to look to a boss or a family member or a friend to tell us that who we are and what we’re doing is good. But I’m beginning to see more clearly that what counts most is to seek the honor that comes from God through living more and more in accord with the purity of His nature – and of my authentic nature as His spiritual, perfect likeness. Ultimately, that’s the only true path to lasting fulfillment.

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About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

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