Unfortunately, many of us give only lip service to the powerful truths of the Scriptures without allowing them to radically affect the basis of our self-worth. Instead, we continue to seek our security and purpose from the world's sources: personal success, status, beauty, wealth, and the approval of others. These may fulfill for a short time, but soon they lead to a sense of urgency to succeed and be approved again.

In the Garden of Eden before the fall, Adam and Eve never struggled with self-worth. God met all their needs - physical, intellectual, emotional and, of course, spiritual. And they enjoyed sweet fellowship with each other and with God. This close relationship with God gave them a deep and secure sense of self-worth because they clearly understood how very much He loved and cherished them.

However, when Adam and Eve abandoned their relationship with God out of pride and rebellion, they lost that sense and instead began feeling shame, worthlessness, emptiness, and so forth. Like them, we have tried hiding from God instead of running to Him with these very same issues. In fact, some use an exorbitant amount of energy every day for years in order to hide who they really are, and how they really feel, from God and others.

I Must Have Everyone's Love and Approval

As kids growing up in Alabama, my brother Wayne and I used to catch little lizards called chameleons. The chameleon is a very interesting creature. For self-protection, he has the ability to change skin color and fit into his current environment. If you place him in a jar with bright green pine straw, you can watch the pigmentation change as he slowly turns to the exact shade of green. Take him out and place him on brown dead leaves and soon he will be a matching shade of brown. God has given him these changing pigments in order to protect him from predators as he blends into his surroundings.

Many of us try hard to be "social chameleons." We want so desperately to be accepted by others that we will try to fit in at any cost. When we are in the green group, we act green. When we are in the brown group, we act brown. And someone help us if we are ever exposed to people from both groups at the same time because we won't know how in the world to behave.

For instance, Linda was so desperate for approval that she avoided conflict at any cost. If someone seemed angry with her, she would say she was sorry - even when she knew that she hadn't done anything wrong. She would change what she wanted to do if she thought it would please someone else. No wonder she got so confused about who she was and what she thought.


The 20/60/20 Truth

A psychologist once underscored the futility of people pleasing by explaining the 20/60/20 truth. He argued that 20 percent of the people you meet will immediately like you, 60 percent will not feel strongly one way or the other, and the remaining 20 percent will immediately not like you.

Makes sense, doesn't it? After all, you know when you've met a woman who is in your top 20 percent. You feel an immediate chemistry with her, and you look forward to the next time you will see her again. Then there's the gal who is in your bottom 20 percent. You quickly feel a dislike for her personality. She irritates you more than someone who scrapes a fingernail on a chalkboard, and you silently hope that you never have to run into her again.

When you meet a woman in the other 60 percent, you note her neutrality. She makes neither a positive nor a negative impression. You may serve on a school committee with her or attend a Bible study group together, but she may be so quiet that you don't feel any more strongly for her for months. One day, it dawns on you that she is a very kind person, and that you like her. Or, you may eventually realize that she has a critical spirit, and you don't care to deepen your friendship.

All three responses are normal responses toward women and men alike because we all have different personality types, and no type is attractive to everyone. Furthermore, you would not want to have everyone's love and approval. If every woman you ever met wanted to be your best friend, you'd feel overwhelmed.

For instance, you would receive hundreds of birthday cards, and you would feel obligated to find out when their birthdays were and make sure you returned a card to them. Your phone would never stop ringing with invitations to lunch and the list goes on. When would you have time to develop genuine, deep friendships with any of them?
Yet, many women spend incredible amounts of time and energy believing the lie that they must have everyone's love and approval. We can become addicted to the approval of others and become upset or depressed when we don't get it.

When I shared the 20/60/20 Truth with my client Linda, the recovering superwoman, she started to smile and I saw a light bulb on in her eyes. She finally understood how hard she was working for approval that she could never attain and, in reality, would never want.

"You know, you are right, Cynthia. There are plenty of people that I don't really care for or want to spend time with," she reflected. "I need to accept that some people feel the same way about me no matter what I do. It would be a great relief to stop working so hard to get everyone to like me! As long as I know am treating everyone fairly, then I am going to try to stop worrying about what they think."

We must base our self-worth on who we are in Christ. Because that kind of worth is tied to the very nature of God, it never changes. Furthermore, after many years, I've finally learned that just because a person perceives me in one way doesn't make that perception true.

You may very well think I'm 6 feet tall, but that won't alter the fact that I am 5'6". There is a great freedom in knowing that as long as I allow God to control my life and develop me into His character, I don't need to worry about how other people interpret the way I live my life.

Excerpted from Deceived by Shame, Desired by God, copyright 2001 by Cynthia Spell Humbert. Used by permission of NavPress, Colorado Springs, Colo., www.navpress.com. All rights reserved. For copies of the book, call 1-800-366-7788.

Cynthia Spell Humbert was a therapist with the Minirth-Meier Clinic in Dallas for seven years, and a frequent guest speaker on the clinic's national radio program. She has earned master's degrees in counseling psychology and Christian counseling. She and her husband David have three young children.

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