Listen: Chris Witts presents Morning Devotions.
I was fascinated to read about a legend in India. If trappers wanted to catch a monkey, they had a big job on their hands. How do you catch a monkey? They are intelligent and very difficult to trap. But they came up with a clever move.
They took a coconut and tied it to a tree. They bored a hole in it just big enough for the monkey to squeeze his hand through. Then they filled it with rice. The monkey would smell the rice—they love rice—and squeeze their hand into the hole and grab the rice.
But here was the problem. He would have to let go of the rice to get his hand out and run away. He wasn’t prepared to let go, and would be caught. We think, What a stupid monkey. All he has to do is let go of the rice and pull his hand out. But that doesn’t happen. He believes he must have the rice, and is caught by the trapper.
This made me ask a question, What am I unwilling to let go of in my life? I think we all hang onto issues in life to make us feel better or to stop misunderstandings by others. I suggest that we can feel like a prisoner, holding onto stuff, just like that poor monkey.
Do You Strive for People’s Approval?
What about seeking other people’s approval? Do you often try to be who others want you to be, to agree with them, to fit in? You may not be consciously aware that you’re doing this, but there could be a part of you that wants to please others to avoid their reactions. I’m sure a lot of us act like that.
In one episode of Seinfeld, the popular TV show of four friends living in New York, George is completely obsessed with the fact that Jerry’s girlfriend, named Jody, does not like him. He is so obsessed with this that he cannot operate with any other facet of his life. In fact, he has a girl that he is dating, who is very interested in him and in getting to know him better.
But he wants everyone, including the girlfriend of his best friend, to like him; and he cannot stop until he achieves that. So George decides to become annoyingly nice to her, as he cannot fathom why Jody does not like him. Then George’s own girlfriend becomes annoyed and asks, “Frankly, I’m getting a little tired of hearing about it—what difference does it make if she doesn’t like you? Does everybody in the world have to like you?”
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To which George responds, “Yes! Yes! Everybody has to like me. I must be liked.” Later in the episode, George’s girlfriend finally gives him an ultimatum. She says, “I like you. She doesn’t. Who are you going to pick?” George says, “I’m sorry,” as he gets up to leave. He then says, “I just can’t stand it when someone doesn’t like me.”
Do You Need to ‘Perform’ to Be Accepted?
While we may be amused from an episode from the TV show Seinfeld, there is a serious side about wanting everyone’s approval. For some it can be a life-long struggle. This pressure to perform and to live up to other people’s expectations creates an enormous amount of stress in our lives. Clearly, there are healthy expectations and positive forms of accountability that benefit us.
When people around us expect excellence, integrity, kindness, success and more, it can in fact influence us in a positive way. However, more often than not, we place a great deal of pressure on ourselves to act, look and ‘perform’ in specific ways; we believe we have to in order to receive the love, acceptance and approval we want—or sometimes feel we need—from others.
Here’s what the Bible says:
The Lord is on my side;
I will not fear.
What can man do to me?
The Lord is for me among those who help me;
Therefore I shall see my desire on those who hate me.
It is better to trust in the Lord
than to put confidence in man. (Psalm 118:6-8 – NKJV).
So, the idea is there about seeking people’s approval. What’s important? Is more important to know that God approves of you, and that God is directing your life? Or by, like George from Seinfeld, being obsessed by what you think other people want you to be?
(To be continued in Letting Go – Part 2)