Recently, my son asked me to write a letter to him with my best life advice. An edited version is posted below.
I’ve spent some time thinking about all the things I’ve experienced – both good and bad– in my 60+ years. There is so much to be learned as we journey through the mountaintops and valleys of this life. Some of your lessons will be different from mine. But one thing is the same. The advice that I wish someone would have told me early on in my life is:
Don’t measure your worth by the approval of others. God’s approval is the only one that is important.
Many of my early years were spent in seeking the approval of my parents. If I performed well, got good grades, and looked good on the outside, I sensed more acceptance and love from them. Real or imagined, this is how I felt. It led to a form of perfectionism – “If I can’t be perfect at (insert your answer here) I won’t even try.” I never felt good enough.
I also tried to have lots of friends in school. Once again, I felt inadequate to live up to the fluctuating standards of youth. I didn’t feel accepted because I wasn’t talented enough, or cute enough, or thin enough. This contributed to a lifetime of disordered eating and low self-esteem.
In early adulthood, I sought approval from the culture. I was “looking for love in all the wrong places”. This led to many poor choices. I didn’t feel “normal” until I was married, having babies, being the “perfect” wife and mother, at least from the outside. I felt valued if my husband was successful or my kids excelled at (insert your answer here).
When I went back to work after being home with kids for 10 years, I loved the accolades I received when I did something well. Once again, I was seeking others’ approval through my performance. If my job was done well, that meant I was good enough.
In my marriage, I was always seeking your dad’s approval. I tried to be thin and smart and supportive, not just because I loved him, but because I was fearful of what might happen if I didn’t meet his expectations.
My worst fear was realized. The person whose love and approval I sought most turned his back and went after something “better” than me. Although that was the worst experience of my life, God used that time to teach me that the only approval I need to seek is His. Whether others disapprove of or turn aside from me doesn’t affect who I am in Christ. I’m so very thankful that God restored my marriage and remade it better than ever.
It has taken many years of walking with the Lord to realize that the acceptance of others has never really been what I was longing for. The approval of people is conditional and temporary at best. I will never be the smartest, prettiest, thinnest, kindest person by others’ standards, but that isn’t what truly matters. Instead, I want to be the uniquely gifted, unconditionally loved, perfectly created child of God. Everything else is second to that.
I know who I am because I know Whose I am.
So, my best life advice to you is to seek God’s approval only. If you live for Him, He will make you into who you were made to be. This lesson was a long time coming in my life, and I pray you will know this truth in a way that will guide you as you journey through yours.
DO love your spouse and your kids with your entire being.
DON’T believe that their approval (or lack of approval) of you is an indication of your value to Christ.
DO work hard to provide for your family and be generous with the gifts you’ve been given.
DON’T believe that the higher your “net worth”, the more you are worth as a person.
DO eat and exercise to keep God’s temple healthy.
DON’T believe that a lower number on the scale boosts your value to God.
DO love others no matter what their personal circumstances.
DON’T judge others by their size, education, skin, or bank account.
DO seek to be a godly example to others.
DON’T believe that if you falter, it means God can’t use you.
DO learn from your past mistakes.
DON’T hold them over your head to remember just how rotten you were.
DO seek to please God in all that you do.
DON’T be concerned about what others think.
DO remember how very much you are loved, valued, and approved of by God.
You are who you are because of Whose you are.
For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ. Galatians 1:10
…but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not to please man, but to please God who tests our hearts. 1 Thessalonians 2:4 ESV
Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Romans 12:16
Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth. 2 Timothy 2:15 ESV
For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends. 2 Corinthians 10:18
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. Romans 12:2
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