Attention seeking is one of the greatest problems of a mortal heart. We live in the world where most people derive their worth from how many social “likes’ they have, who they know, who follows and adores them. We do most of what we do because we always want to win people’s approval.
After reading tens of thousands of letters and talking to people over the last 10 years, Pastor Rick Warren, author of the bestselling book The Purpose Driven Life – concluded that attention seeking (that shows itself mainly in a form of envy and people pleasing) is the biggest reason why people do not live a fulfilled life. He says, “Envy is ‘I must be like you to be happy,’ I’ve got to look like you, I’ve got to have your money, I’ve got to have your kids, your family, your husband.” Rick continues, “People-pleasing is, ‘I must be liked by you to be happy. And unless you like me, then I can’t be happy.’
So attention seeking craves to be like (and liked by) others; it says unless I’m like them or liked by them I’m not good enough and therefore I’m not ecstatic. In doing that, we surrender control of our happiness to them. That’s why God must wean us off people; He must stop us from idolizing them as the ultimate source of our self-worth and happiness.
Provision is a major reason behind attention seeking. We always seek to please those that we assume they have what we need. We are desperate to win their approval to have access to what they have. The Bible calls this idolatry – the worship of false gods. The word “God” can be defined as “the source of provision” or simply “the provider”. So anything you consider to be the source (or the provider of something) is the god of that ‘thing’ to you. Every one of us has a god and some have multiple gods.
Worship means “a reverential acknowledgement, appreciation and dependency on something”. Naturally we tend to worship the god of a ‘thing’ in order to get the ‘thing’.
There is only one sovereign God, everything else is just a resource. Yes, more often than not God provides through people; if I’m honest we need people, they are part of our life, but God reserves the right to bring people into our lives as and when He deems fit. If God used wild vultures to feed Elijah He can surely use strangers or even your sworn enemies to bless you. Sometimes people don’t need to love you to be used by God to bless you. After all our greatest blessings often come to us through people who hate and hurt us the most.
To turn people into idols attracts severe punishment from God. “Cursed are the ones who put their trust in mere humans”, Jeremiah 17:5-8 says, “Who rely on human strength and turn their hearts away from the Lord. They are like stunted shrubs in the desert, with no hope for the future. They will live in the barren wilderness, in an uninhabited salty land. But blessed are those who trust in the Lord and have made the Lord their hope and confidence. They are like trees planted along a riverbank, with roots that reach deep into the water. Such trees are not bothered by the heat or worried by long months of drought. Their leaves stay green, and they never stop producing fruit.”
For years, I suffered greatly from insecurity. I tried hard to please people, sacrificing my all in the process only to be bitterly disappointed in the end. Thankfully I’m doing a lot better now. I’ve since known that I don’t need to be like or liked by everyone to be happy and fulfilled. The quality of my life is not determined by other people’s likes or dislikes because God – the all-powerful and owner of the universe – liked me long before I was developed in my mother’s womb. I’m simply amazing just the way I am. Since I’m wonderfully and uniquely made my noble duty is to be as me as possible for His glory.
God will provide and bring (or take away) the people in line with His purpose for my life. He will never take away the people that are still relevant to my destiny or keep those that are not needed. If some people have left us, the scripture says, it’s because they were not supposed to be part of us forever. Their leaving is a divine proof that they are not useful to us at this moment. (1Jon 2:19)
My prayer is that may we all grow strong enough to take control of our own happiness and stop auditioning for people’s approval as we dedicate each and every performance to the glorious audience of the one that has already accepted us the way we are – God!