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When we think of slavery we usually think of the following: pre-Civil War, human trafficking, Third World human buying and selling, etc. But did you know we can be modern day slaves to other people? We can be slaves to what other people think.

Now, don’t get me wrong: how other people view you can heavily impact you. When people are encouraging and say uplifting, life-giving things about you and to you, you are lifted up. When they say untrue, death-giving words to you, they tear you down. I don’t want to minimize that. I understand how painful it can be to be torn down in what people say and how they treat you.

For example: I was in a job for a while where a superior of mine wrote a whole lot of untruths about me to our superior. The root of it was that she disliked me, I think, and found me threatening (I guess. Who knows). The impact of that was that I was let go from my job. It was not fun, to put it mildly.

I’ve had people in everyday life do similar things too. I once had a friend tell me that they “wanted to let me know how much I’d hurt them.” To someone like me who has a huge heart, that messed me up pretty bad, hearing that. It impacted, for a time, how I viewed myself. And I still struggle against those words sometimes.

That’s what life throws at us sometimes. This world is a messed up place, with sinful people who are often hurtful.

When I was in middle school, I specifically remember loving and reminding myself of this Bible verse often:

“Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ” (Galatians 1:10, NIV).

That verse really stood out to me. If I’m trying to please people, I am not a servant of Christ. If Jesus is the Lord of your life, then you want to be His servant and do things to please Him. However, you are not His servant if you are trying to win the approval of others.

I remember in my middle school years specifically, I was often struggling with the whole thing of wanting to please people. I know at that age, you’re changing a lot as a person and are trying to figure out who you are. If you draw your self-worth and self-image from what others think of you, you’re toast. Really–toast. Do you have any idea how badly that can mess you up living to please people?

You’ve got to draw your self-worth and self-image from God, not men (“men” as in “mankind”). If you don’t, then you can be destroyed really easily. You have to see yourself as God sees you. Think back to that story about that job I had. I could’ve let that destroy me (and I still struggle heavily against this). I could’ve believed the lies that were told of me. But, the thing was, that’s all they were–lies.

In the job I was let go from, I honestly did a good job. I was a hard worker and loving and a natural at it. That’s what God calls us to be, and I did that. I have to look for God’s approval, not man’s. But at the same time, I know I never have to work for His love (something I sometimes struggle with because I want to earn my keep, and because I can be a workaholic).

I have to see myself as God sees me: beloved, in all forms of the word. Who I am is not based on how people treat me. I just have to act in a way pleasing to God and open myself to be loved by Him. I cannot draw my self-worth from people. Pleasing people is a terribly exhausting experience. Let me give you some examples:

“I don’t look pretty enough? Oh dear, I’d better figure out how to do my makeup perfectly. I’d better find a way to get my hair to look just right. I’d better find that perfect outfit.”

“I’m not smart enough? They tell me I’m stupid. They call me awful names. I struggle with my schoolwork. I don’t get the grades I’d hoped for. Compared to these others, I’m pretty dumb.”

“I don’t have enough muscles? I don’t look good enough? I’m not good enough? I’d better work out more. I’d better be more athletic. I’d better be more adept at my sport.”

For me, those examples I’ve given above are usually not things I struggle with much. I sort of really like how I look, and the only times I’ve really felt insecure about that was when a guy told me indirectly and directly how I should dress so I’d look prettier for him (yeah, that wasn’t fun). But you know what I struggle with a lot? Wanting loving attention. I want people to like me, and I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing. I think that’s how God wired us. However, if I’m cast out or put down or whatever it is, my self-worth can be destroyed if it’s not already in God.

First and foremost, I want to be pleasing to God. If that’s what my heart is centered on, then I’m good to go. If I seek to please God instead of men, then I am a servant of Christ. If I please people through pleasing God, great. If I don’t, then too bad. As my mom says: “You can please some of the people all of the time, all of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time” (John Lydgate). God is the Lord of my life, not them. They don’t control me. They don’t rule over me or my heart. I want God to be the ruler and lover of my heart. Amen.

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