None of us saw it coming, but it stopped us in our tracks. We were in our living room tending to my wife who is recovering from arthroscopic knee surgery; the entourage consisted of my wife and I, two daughters, two granddaughters, and a grandson. My role in it all was to play with the grandkids. Tough job, but someone had to do it. We played out-of-doors until triple digit heat drove us inside, then moved the party to cooler environs where we commenced hide and seek, followed by a nameless adventure with walki talkies. Through it all, two-year-old Hannah was my ever-present sidekick. She has been my buddy from birth, it seems like, so none of this was out of the ordinary. At one point, in the lull of activity, Hannah came and leaned her cheek against my knee and distinctly said, “You’re my best friend.” It was an overwhelming aaah moment for all of us, and something even more special for me. I doubt that I will ever forget that unexpected outpouring of affection. Unsolicited adoration may be the highest form of approval, and I reveled in it. 
Everyone enjoys being appreciated, and it is healthy and entirely appropriate to cherish praise and encouragement. Some of us, however, become unhealthily dependent on affirmation to the detriment of our psychological and spiritual well-being. Approval addiction may be the toughest of all habits to kick. These addicts succumb to a monkey on their back that coerces turning according to the whims of others. The danger is to lose ourselves while working to please someone else. In fact, it’s often easier to know what people expect from you than to recognize (and admit) what you want for yourself.
“After I experienced some sobriety from my primary addiction it became clear that there were a lot of other processes that I was addicted to—ways of thinking and acting that fed my main addiction. One of those sub-addictions rans deep underneath the radar of my life. It has nothing to do with chemical dependency or substance abuse. There are no twelve-step groups to help people fight it. There are no treatment centers to help us escape it. But for a lot of us it creates relational, spiritual and social havoc in our lives.
This particular addiction is what might be called approval addiction. It involves people living in bondage to what other people think about us. When you become an addict to approval, no matter how much of this drug of choice you get, you can never have enough. You’ve got to have more and more and more fixes and, like other junkies, you can go crazy when your drug of choice is withheld.” (Matt Russell of the National Association of Christian Recovery)
This subtle, yet destructive element erodes the foundation of grace upon which each Christ-life is intended to stand. Its primary symptom is the tendency to confuse performance with personal value, to seek the kind of approval from others that only satisfies when it originates with God. This addiction has been around forever. Paul reacted against pressure from the Galatians: “Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ” (Galatians 1:10). The remedy is simple, yet profound–immerse yourself in God’s approval until you begin to believe what He has already said is true: There is nothing you can ever do or fail to do that will cause the Father to love you any more or any less. You are His; He is yours–full stop.

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