Thursday, July 24, 2014

Seeking Affirmation

If you don't get the connection, youtube "validation" and you'll understand.
I got the chance to visit Bridgetown church last weekend, something I'd been planning to do for quite some time, and it gave me something juicy to meditate on this week.

The teacher -- and I can't for the life of me remember his name, it just wasn't John Mark -- talked about Peter's showdown in the garden when Jesus was arrested. He cut off a servant's ear in a display of emotion, aggression and fear, leading Jesus to heal the ear and berate Peter for acting with violence.

The talk turned to a dissection of Peter's motivations: earlier in the evening, he had been told he would deny Christ three times and he had been told that Judas would betray Jesus to the religious leaders. He was a mixture of feelings at the time. Angry at Judas for his betrayal, afraid that Jesus was being arrested and would be leaving them for a time, hurt that Jesus had predicted his denial and embarrassed that Jesus knew his true heart.

All of those things boil over when he draws his sword, and I think - and these are also the words of Sunday's teacher - he was motivated out of a want to prove his loyalty. It was slightly futile, as his actions went against Jesus' peaceful message, but it does serve as a thought provoking story.

How am I motivated? Many of my habits and motivations are pretty basic. I just want to be happy, and I'm afraid of not being happy and so I do things and act a certain way to be sure that happens.

For the moment, I'll focus on one: the want to be accepted. Broken down, it falls into the happiness category. It goes along with being respected and admired and looked up to - I just want to be liked, doesn't everybody?

Yes. I'd contend yes (except Steve), but the way we go about it varies, with varied results. I've noticed over the past few months that I tend to chase affirmation. Regardless of the sarcastic response they usually get from me, I like awards. I like complements, I like people reaching out to me and wanting to be friends. All those things are validating, they make you relevant and help you to know you're doing something right.

Those wants and desires seem to be built in to us humans (again, except Steve). Even the youngest kids -- my growing bunch of nieces and nephews for example -- like to show their parents the things they're proud of. Whether it's a simply crafted drawing (LOOK! He drew a basketball with LINES, says mommy) or a pile of sticks, the appetite to have our actions affirmed as impressive or desirable drives us at all stages of life. In kindergarten it's the finger painting on the refrigerator. In middle school it might be wearing a cool new back back to class, and in high school its flirting with the cute girl in math class.

On the surface, those things aren't harmful, but when we let our lives begin to form around the affirmation from our fellow humans, that's when the train comes off the tracks. The reason, I think, we were born with such a desire is that we are supposed to crave the affirmation of our Creator. What validation is stronger? What complement is higher? None.

It all goes back to the camp song we used to sing as kids that was taken from Matthew 25:21:

"His master replied, 'Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness!'"

Or as we sang it, "My good and faithful oooonneeeeee, weeeelll DONE MAHN."

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