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In my more insecure moments, I would likely tell you that I am a pretty laid back, easy-going sort of fellow who floats along the river of life and who pays no mind to the opinions of others. In my more honest moments, I might confide that I struggle to avoid relying on the favor of others for my self-worth and that my tendencies as a people-pleaser often leave my nerves shot and my brain fried.
Well, so much for resembling a casual leaf floating down a lazy river. I share more commonalities with an ant on a hot sidewalk.
In a tech-and-time-obsessed culture, it is easy to blame advances in communication technology for my obsession with constant image cultivation. People are paying attention all the time, right? I have to tweet the right things at the right time. I have to be assigned to and complete X-number of projects. My web site needs extra tweaking in order to increase my hits and decrease my bounce rate. Don't even get me started on the different ways I ought to be using LinkedIn in order to maximize my networking potential. (Seriously, don't get me started. I have no clue.)
How can I expect to get ahead if I don’t impress the right people with my charm (Ha!), wit (DOA), and savvy? (I recently spent ten minutes looking for a light switch ... for a skylight.)
This tends to be especially problematic when the school year rolls around. As a husband/father/employee/student with an unhealthy desire to please people, a new semester means new professors to impress. This in turn means extra stress as I try to figure out just how I need to go about impressing each individual professor. It's exhausting. It's unhealthy. And, frankly, I'm not so sure that many of my professors have been impressed with my crocheting skills. So I am left back at square one.
This is convenient, since it allows me to finally get to the point. Just who am I trying to impress, anyways? And why is that? Whose opinions really affect my life? (Or, rather, whose opinions really should affect my life?)
Ahhh, that's right, those silly little tykes. And their beautiful mother, of course. Oh, and I can't leave out the most important Opinion Holder of all, God.
It's sad to realize how little value I sometimes give their opinions when it comes to the way I live my life. Sure, I'd pay a lot of lip service to the fact that their opinions are the ones which impact my decisions the most, but do I actually live that way? Do my actions reflect my words?
The truth is that the way I often live proves that I don't always put God's opinion first. Or my wife's opinion second to that. Or our precious little kiddos’ opinions after hers. I nearly always work hard to impress strangers and acquaintances. I too often coast with God and my own family, believing them to be impressed with the petty, unimportant, earthly approvals I strive after.
Does my son care what my Klout score is? Will he refuse to play catch with a man that has less Klout than Justin Bieber? Does my daughter care if my LinkedIn profile isn't strong enough? Will she be ashamed to be read “Frog in the Kitchen Sink” by a man whose Bedtime Story skill set has yet to be endorsed by his peers? Will my wife be disgraced because she is married to a man whose tweets are rarely retweeted? Is God disappointed that the bounce rate on my personal web site consistently hovers around one hundred percent?
No. They'll keep on greeting me excitedly at the door even if my Klout score is zero, even if I haven't been endorsed for my video editing skill set, and even if my web site still happened to feature animated GIFs from the 1990s.
Thankfully, God has seen it fit to help ground me (over and over again) in that reality. He knew I needed silly smiles and sloppy, sticky kisses at the end of the day to remind me of the opinions that actually matter.
For that (and many other things), I am grateful that His opinion transcends my own. It’s liberating, when you really think about it, to be offered relief from the frantic search for outside validation.
It’s liberating, if we can learn to grasp it, to realize that the opinions that really matter are waiting at home with sticky cheeks and noses pressed against the screen.
Jake Roberson (@jake_roberson) is a contributor for Dad Matters and a specialist in our Family Help Center at Focus on the Family.
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