When did your parents say nice things to you and about you? How did you feel? Or, sadly, maybe you can’t think of a time when you parents gave you positive attention.
Robert McGee wrote, “Every rejection reminded me that as a child I had never experienced the love from my father that I wanted–that I deserved.”
“When father/child relationships become seriously distorted, children lose perspective. They cease to feel valued and valuable. Having learned that more is required than merely being, children soon turn to doing by trying to behave in a way that pleases the parent.”
When we lack our father’s love sometimes we choose roles: 1
1. A “show pony” attracts attention with a diverse skill set.
2. A “work horse” attempts to be noticed because of her reliability of her performance.
3. A “sacrificial lamb” takes on the blame for the choices of other family members.
4. A “mole” hiding from the abuse and anger fearful of becoming involved or victimized.
5. A “lemming” moves out of his dysfunctional home into other unhealthy relationships.
6. A “parrot” imitates the parent in order to receive praise.
7. A “chameleon” adapts by becoming whatever might please the parent.
8. A “lap dog” is extremely submissive.
“The truth is that you can learn to feel good about yourself without meeting someone else’s standards. You don’t need to gain the approval of your father–or anyone else–to enjoy a sense of self-worth.”
Believing that our self-worth is based on what others think of us is a false belief that leads us to become addicted to their approval. Robert McGee calls this the approval trap. The approval trap is a false promise that the acceptance of others is the key to our happiness. 2
Here are some examples of when I have been caught in this trap at TreeHouse:
– I gave preferential treatment to my favorite teens.
– In order to win the approval of teens I overlooked or dismissed their disrespect.
– I exaggerated the truth about my accomplishments or experiences.
– I made sure to wear just the right clothes to create an image.
– In order to feel accepted I ______ even though I know it’s bad for me.
When have you been caught in the approval trap?
The fact of the matter is, no matter how hard you try, you cannot guarantee that others will accept you.
Paul the Apostle explained that the key to overcoming approval traps is a healthy defense. “You have been trusted with a wonderful treasure. Guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit, who lives within you.” 3
What practices have you chosen that help you “guard” your life?
How can you better “guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit”?
I agree with McGee, “My goal has not been to provide a quick fix, but rather to coax you to take off the bandages and see the extent of the wound.”
- List some ways that you have given into your unhealthy need for approval.
- If you pray — and I hope that you do — confess to God the ways that you have given into your unhealthy need for approval.
- Consider bringing a trusted friend into the process to help you choose wisely.
1 – From Father Hunger by Robert S. McGee
2 – From Robert S. McGee’s The Search For Significance.
3 – 2 Timothy 1:14, CEV