The Dilemma of Acceptance

It doesn’t matter if you’re a Christian, an Atheist, a Muslim, or a member of the church of Scientology (shout out to my boy Tom Cruise). Every person on earth has this in common: We all crave acceptance. We share an innate desire to belong, a tribal instinct to search out community. Some people deny this—”I don’t need anybody. I’m fine all by myself.” But, often it’s just a defense mechanism to avoid rejection. The truth is, we want to matter. We want to know that someone acknowledges our existence and actually enjoys having us around. Acceptance is a beautiful thing. It’s healthy.

But there is a tragic flaw in the way most of us view acceptance.

From a biblical perspective, life is best lived through community. The New Testament rejects the island mentality (that every man is an island unto himself). People were created to share their lives, to connect in acts of love and generosity. Most people accept this idea. So, we look to others for acceptance. I wrote a little about this topic as it relates to the church here.

We track our progress by the number of friends we have on Facebook. And then there’s Twitter. Have you ever lost a follower on Twitter? You spend the next hour doing an intense self-analysis. Was it something I said? I can change. I promise I can change! Likes and retweets are like sweet validation. They think I’m funny. Witty. Important. 

Social media is the new “Do you like me? Check ‘yes’ or ‘no’.”

There is a subtle monster creeping beneath all of this. We tend to search for ultimate acceptance from people who are searching for ultimate acceptance from someone else. This is a tragic cycle. While we are busy looking to be noticed by others, they are on the same pursuit. As a result, we will never know the joy of complete, uninterrupted acceptance from another human being. Not even your best friend can provide what your heart is after.

Ultimate acceptance can only come from a source that is completely self-sustained.

Enter God. Some describe Him as an egomaniacal tyrant that deals with humanity like an attention starved teenager. On the contrary, God is an eternal being that needs nothing from anyone, but created us so that we could experience the fulness of love. The cross stands as a universal sign of unearned acceptance. God doesn’t extend this to people who have proven worthy. The message of the gospel is that we do everything to deserve God’s anger and punishment and instead He gives us favor through Christ’s sacrifice.

God had Christ, who was sinless, take our sin so that we might receive God’s approval through him. (2 Corinthians 5:21)

No one else can offer that. We should be able to find acceptance, but when we put the full weight of our need on others we set them up for failure. No human relationship can stand up to that pressure. Sometimes your friends will fail you. Your spouse too. Your family will get it wrong. Don’t give them a job they aren’t qualified to perform. It’s unfair and unrealistic. Only your Creator can satisfy your deepest desire.

What about you? How have you struggled with acceptance? Comment below.

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