It’s insidious and deceptive. But, it’s very real for someone like me. And, it goes back to my teen years and followed me around all of my life like a stalker.
I yearned to be in the “popular” crowd at school. I wanted the attention and accolades heaped by teachers and others on the popular crowd consisting of the successful students.
You know the popular crowd. The cheerleaders. The football players who dated the cheerleaders and wore each other’s ring. The president of the student body and president of about every other club in school. I didn’t fit in and couldn’t wait to get out of high school even though I yearned for what they had and what I never had. So, I graduated at the end of the 11th grade to move on hoping for a change that never happened.
So at age 19 at the end of my first semester in college, I got married. No job. No college education. No apartment or house. Homeless. But I was convinced God would take care of us. And somehow, He did.
She was the first girl who ever gave me attention and affection for which I was starving. I couldn’t get a date in high school. I was too shy to ask a girl out. I anticipated ‘no’ before asking. So, I didn’t ask. However, I did get around to asking a few girls for a date, and believe it or not, I actually went out with three different girls. That was it. So, I was swept away at age 18 when a beautiful girl gave me the attention and affection for which I longed.
In college, I met a “Christian” man experienced in the ways of the world with a controlling personality. He invited me to be a part of his “True Christian” group which I eagerly and hungrily accepted. Big mistake. He led a protest against the other Christian groups on campus and their leaders saying they were not true Christians. I was there with him along with a few other misguided students who were led to believe we were the only true Christians on campus. He didn’t stay in school long left. But, I was branded as one of his disciples. And that ended any chance of fitting in with the “normal” student Christian leaders on campus.
There are many other confessions I could make, but let one more suffice.
I accepted a mission church in the Northeast where I came under the influence of a controlling mission director. I was like a magnet to people like that. I was their ‘step and fetch it’ because of my deep inner need to be somebody important.
This man wanted me to start new churches and accept a church about to die IN ADDITION to my struggling church that I was trying to grow. Well, you know what happened. I did everything he asked me which became a disaster to my selfhood and my family. “No” was not in my DNA.
And why? I wanted to be noticed and approved by people who I thought were important. They had the power to elevate me to important positions so I thought. But back to the mission director. When my life and marriage collapsed, he didn’t lift a finger to help me although I asked for his help.
That’s what happens when you and I make other people our idols. We are hung out to dry when we need them the most. When we are used up, they don’t know us any more.
Was I angry? Bitter? Resentful? Depressed? You bet I was. But like a gully formed in the desert by rains, I just kept washing out in the same gully. I didn’t know how to create different streams so that the rain wouldn’t deepen the same gully. (Earnie Larsen, “Stage II Recovery). My gully kept getting deeper and deeper turning itself into a canyon. I didn’t have the skills to create new paths for the rain to runoff in healthy ways.
These are just a few painful memories I have. There are many others, but these will suffice so you can get my picture and perhaps your picture too.
God created us with relational needs. In fact, God is relational. He is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and He relates within Himself. His love for us through Christ’s sacrifice on the cross means He desires a love relationship with Him and He with us and us with family and others. Relational needs are who we are and what we have been created for. In fact, the Scripture says that God put the lonely in families (Psalm 68:6).
If people do not get the affirmation, positive attention, and encouragement from their family of origin, they will seek out those who can meet these needs and often do or be anything someone else wants in order to have a relationship with someone they consider to be signicant to meet those needs.
Sarah Geronimo along with many others have written about meeting that special significant someone and the feelings that follow. She wrote. “You gave me a reason for my being, And I love what I’m feelin’. You gave me a meaning to my life. Yes, I’ve gone beyond existing. And it all began when I met you.”
We look to that special person and also to other people to make us happy, to feel loved and accepted, to be valued and important, and to beyond existing. When we do that, we are basing our self worth on their love for us. That’s not good.
Pat Springle says in his workbook, “Conquering Codependency,” that a self worth based on the approval of others is a false belief. It needs to be replaced with the Truth that I am deeply loved by God (1 John 4:9-10) and that I am fully pleasing to God based on Christ’s sacrificial atonement on the cross (Romans 5:1).
Knowing that I am both deeply loved by the Lord and that I am fully pleasing to Him eliminates forever my need and yours to find our self-worth and identity from another person. It is liberating! At least for me it is.
I tore down my idol of worshipping others and replaced it with the true worship of honoring and thanking God for loving me with all of my faults and mistakes.
Such a revelation is growing in the grace and knowledge of the Lord (2 Peter 3:18). It is God redeeming a heart of stone and making it a heart of flesh to feel and love the way He intended (Ezekiel 36:26). It is making new pleasant paths (Psalm 16:11) to channel our emotion of anger instead of deepening the gully of resentment, bitterness, and depression.
Our goal then is to direct our worship to the Lord and please Him rather than making an idol of others and pleasing them in a vain attempt to meet our divine need of human relationships. “We speak, not to please man, but to please God who tests our hearts” (1 Thessalonians 2:4 ESV).
Jesus said “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:37-39).
Let’s not get these out of sequence like I often did and wasn’t even aware of my error. Love the Lord first and foremost, and secondly, love others. And I might add, love others with the right motive which is NOT to make an idol out of someone for the purpose of gaining signifance, approval, and acceptance. Love others unconditionally without expecting any favors in return.