Monday, May 25, 2009

Jake's Thought for the Week

Each Monday I will be posting Jake's Thought for the Week which he sends out to all the parents of the players in his All Iowa Attack program.

Galatians 1:10 – "For am I now trying to win the favor of people, or God? Or am I striving to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a slave of Christ."

I think all of us struggle in one way or another with seeking approval from others and ultimately that approval or lack of approval determines the type of day or week we may have. Sometimes our desire of approval from others will affect our performance and holds us back from accomplishing our dreams and goals. What if people think I am a failure? What if the coach does not like me? What if people think I am not good enough? What do these college coaches think of me? Why doesn’t this person see how hard I am working? Probably like many of you I struggle with these things on a weekly basis. This week I came across an article by Pastor John Ortberg about approval addiction and I took an excerpt from it to share for the Thought of the week:

By: Pastor John Ortberg

Sociologist George Herbert Meade wrote about the "generalized other," the mental representation we carry inside ourselves of that group of people in whose judgment we measure our success or failure. Our sense of esteem and worth is largely wrapped up in their appraisal of our work:

Your generalized other is a composite of all the Siskels and Eberts in your life whose thumbs up or thumbs down carries, for you, emotional weight. This may include parents, seminary professors, key lay leaders, or others. My guess is that most of us have the same set of ego issues as people in any other professions. We just have a different way of keeping score. When my identity is wrapped up in whether I am perceived as successful, I am set up for the approval addiction, for it is my very sense of self that is on the line.

"Who am I?" Henri Nouwen asks. "I am the one who is liked, praised, admired, disliked, hated, or despised. Whether I am a pianist, a businessman, or a minister, what matters is how I am perceived by my world."

And when my drug of choice is withheld, I respond with the same anger as any other addict: Don't these people know I have the best interests of the church at heart? Don't they know I could have gone into some other profession and made lots more money? It's as if I'm entitled to universal trust and consideration. Nouwen goes on to write:

Anger in particular seems close to a professional vice in positions of leadership. Leaders are angry at their leaders for not leading and at their followers for not following. They are angry at those who do not come on a regular basis, and angry at those who do come for coming without enthusiasm.

They are angry at their families, who make them feel guilty, and angry at themselves for not being who they want to be. This is not an open, blatant, roaring anger, but an anger hidden behind the smooth word, the smiling face, and the polite handshake. It is a frozen anger, an anger which settles into a biting resentment and slowly paralyzes a generous heart.

If there is anything that makes the ministry look grim and dull, it is this dark, insidious anger in the servants of Christ.

Wherever it comes from, whenever my craving for approval makes itself known, I'd better pay attention.

One Sunday morning, as I was greeting people at the door, a visitor handed me his card.

"I usually attend Hollywood Presbyterian," he said. "But we're visiting here today. Give me a call sometime."

I looked down at his card—"Speech Instructor."

Hollywood Presbyterian is the home of Lloyd Ogilvie. Lloyd Ogilvie is perfect. His hair is perfect, his robe is perfect, his smile is perfect, but above all, his voice is perfect. Deep as the ocean, rich and resonant, Lloyd Ogilvie sounds like what I expect God will sound like on a really good day. Next to his voice, mine sounds like I'm in perpetual adolescence. It's difficult to feel prophetic when you hear yourself chirping like Mickey Mouse: "Okay, now, let's repent."

When I catch myself comparing myself to others or thinking, I could be happy if only I had what they have, then I know I need to withdraw for a while and listen for another voice. Away from the winds, earthquakes, and fires of human recognition, I can again hear the still, small voice, posing the question it always asks of self-absorbed people: What are you doing here? I reply by whining about some of my own problems and failures. And the voice gently reminds me, as it has reminded thousands of Elijahs before me, that I am only a small part of a much larger movement, and at the end of the day there is only one King whose approval will matter. The voice also whispers, Do not despise your place, your gifts, your voice, for you cannot have another's, and it would not fulfill you if you could.

Go Attack,
Jake Sullivan

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