I was having a good chat yesterday with my buddy Brody on ichat. Somehow the subject of fame and approval came up and he said, "yeah, I suppose they (people) just want to be liked, just like we do."
It is always a shocker when that little realization hits me. You know, you go through years and years of getting over that crap. You think you are all grown up and doing your thing, only to find that phrase knocking you in the gut like it did in Jr. High.
The want to be validated is dangerous business.
The desperate need to be liked, acknowledged and validated, or to "make our mark" is so easily substituted for the true and right yearning of our hearts: to love and to be loved and appreciated. The society in which we live doesn't help much. You are only "something" if you've played with your band on Conan O'Brien, or have had a big record deal, or a big Broadway show, or a big film break... And you'd think that only the non-famous struggle with this. Nay, it this little disease goes from the bottom to the middle, all the way to the top. World famous singers leave their careers as recording artists to be in films and fail miserably, followed by a giant leap into depression.
Recent studies have shown that if people today were given the choice of fame, health, intelligence, looks, good family and healthy marriage - they would choose fame, overwhelmingly. Not surprising. It is the original sin; we want to be god. We want worship, adoration, acknowledgement, and success that stomps the competition into the dirt. Like an addict yearns for that next hit, our ego yearns for the next and bigger recognition.
The odd thing is, that when your heart is right, and you are acknowledged, you are humbled rather than puffed up.
Wanting the world's approval is a weird, nasty thing. It makes you push your way to the front. I makes you brag on your charity. It makes parents say nasty things about other kids so that their kid will be first. It makes artists steal, lie and cheat. Basically, it brings out the absolute WORST in us, even in the most selfless acts. Like a drip of dye, the tiniest boast can taint the best and kindest acts of charity. That's why the Lord said to drop your gift at the door with no return address.
Then the time factor sets in and makes the whole situation worse. I'm about in my mid-thirties and some new and unique feelings have sprouted their ugly heads. In your twenties you feel like you've got all the time in the world. Shoot, you could even still be a pro-baseball player if you want! But you soon find that you can't just go out and run a mile and lose 11 pounds like you used to. Your body has started to keep its own council on personal growth. You look down in the shower to see hair accumulating in the drain and hair growing on every other part of your body that shouldn't be hairy. You check to see if you accidentally used Nair hair removal instead of conditioner on your head. Then, slowly but surely, your nose begins its slow offensive to take over your face.
I talk to a lot of guys these days and they struggle with this question: "What have I done? Why am I not great? I should be well-known by now." Especially here in NYC. (It is everywhere, its just that NYC - and I imagine Nashville and L.A.- inherently attracts the fame-thirsty.) I am NO stranger to these thoughts myself. It is an everyday battle. I am here to tell you, my friends, wherever you are, if you let this self-pity settle-in, these questions are not just bad, they are deadly. They can kill the heart of an artist/father/husband or artist/mother/wife faster than you can scratch your underwear rash.
The questions should be: "Why have I done for others with the gifts I've been given? Why am I not the great man/husband/father/mother/artist God has made me and commanded me to be? Am I doing my best in all that I do? Am I being obedient? I need God above all things, and I need to love and be loved."
I help lead worship now for the Redeemer Recovery Group for Redeemer Pres. and I'm finding that the need for control and the need to be acknowledged are probably the leading cause every kind of addiction there is today and probably the leading cause of broken-marriages as well. These thoughts turned inward to self-pity can empty every bit of God's life and joy for life out of you, leaving you with a vacuum - a vacuum that sucks all affirmations into its event horizon. And what do you find when you finally get the approval that you think you need? You find that you simply need more approval. And the people from whom you were seeking the approval seem to only want more out of you. Nothing is ever enough for those folks, nor is it enough for you.
There are many things that make us want that approval, and there isn't time or space to go into all of them, but let's just say that the power of our parent's words of affirmation or lack thereof is astounding. But even with the best and most encouraging parents (like mine!) we can easily find ourselves never satisfied and wanting more.
Jesus said that all the law could be summed up in two commandments: "Love the Lord God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength, and to Love your neighbor as yourself." Good grief, how easy it is to turn that into "Try to gain fame and notoriety with all your mind soul and strength" and "Love making your neighbor notice you as you love being noticed."
All that to say, "Seek first the Kingdom of God, and his righteousness..."
It isn't the solution that we want to hear because it means a total submission of self to something else altogether and infinitely more than us. It means hard work. When I'm at my worst, I hear that, and it just makes me mad. I want to take a whack at whoever is preaching that old tired sermon to me. But that is probably one of the signs that it is so very right. A submission of your will is the only way to experience real peace, joy, freedom and the abundant life the Good Lord has for us. When you do, your talents and gifts come alive in way that they never have. They become the blessing they were meant to be rather than the curses that we have made them.
And how does one do all that? I'm still learning.