With our own eyes we have seen it.” Psalm 35:19-21, NIV1984
I have an addiction. More often than I’d like to admit, I battle with approval addiction. I used to justify it by preaching that I’m just “chief reputation officer of myself”. Within moments of opening a conversation with me, you’re likely to hear any number of statements that explain or defend my character. Jon Ortberg calls it “impression management”, things like “I would never…” and “I normally don’t…” We all have a tendency to guard against being misrepresented by what’s unspoken or mischaracterized by others’ perceptions of us. Unchecked, it becomes and all encompassing addiction inextricably glued to us by the powerful adhesive forces of social media.
A year or two ago, I had to make a few radical choices to solve a very unique set of problems that were facing us. We’re pretty sure the God gave us the solutions because a) they were incredibly effective and b) neither of us would normally have thought so far outside the box in our own strength. Recently, some friends of ours learned about what I did and made vague comments in disapproval. My ego felt bruised and feared my reputation was tarnished, at least in their eyes.
Ever felt misrepresented? Ever felt like you just needed to issue a public statement to clear your name of some misperception, gossip, or worse, lie about you? Ever felt like there’s a person or people watching your worst move(s), just waiting to say “Aha!!!”? Ever felt like writing an open letter or posting a well-sharpened retort on Facebook designed to bring your enemies to shame and clear your name in one fell-swoop?
King David – the anointed of the Lord – was plagued by scandal in his rule, even before he ever came to power. Psalm 35 was likely written when he was being pursued by Saul. So, it is before he could have leveraged the resources of the Kingdom of Israel to defend his good name. However, his response to the scandal, the “Aha”‘s and the “GOTCHA”s is no less correct:
Even the great ruler of Israel had “Gotchas” after him. You and I have Gotchas after us. Learning the difference between control over our reputation vs. influence on our reputation is a crucial step toward the peace of God. Holding onto control is a sure sign of addiction. Submitting to God in this area offers freedom and recovery from addiction that can’t be found anywhere else.
Are you addicted to approval? Are you “cautious about your reputation” (addicted to approval)? Are you bitter with your accusers? One day, we will all appear before the judgment seat of Christ (2 Cor 5:10) and the truth of what you have done or haven’t done will be aired in front of the Lord. Fighting for your reputation is often fighting against the Lord. What peace might we find if we surrendered our reputation (and vindication) to the Lord now, instead of waiting for the judgment seat to come?