Of the many fears that can drive our behavior, or cause us to severely limit our behavior, fear of failure is an enormous and debilitating one. It can make us so driven to accomlish and achieve, that we no longer have the time to develop a real and substantial relationship with the people we most need the acceptance of.
Or, on the other end of the spectrum, we may be so afraid of the rejection of others that we avoid them to protect ourselves from even the possibility of rejection. Either way, we lose.
Our family and friends and colleagues lose too when they don’t have the opportunity of a connected relationship with us.
As McGee describes this dilemma in The Search for Significance, he suggests that our culture teaches us that our worth and value are based on achievement, accomplishment, and the approval of others. I believe we have allowed this kind of thinking to influence how we measure spirituality at times.
Jesus had to address this kind of thinking in his disciples, potential disciples, and the Pharisees. He did not have the approval of his disciples on many occassions.
In the first chapter of Mark, we read that Peter and some of the other disciples were frustrated and perturbed with Jesus taking time away from healing to go off alone and pray. They must have been upset with Him for sleeping in the front of the boat while they feared for their life rowing in a storm.
They did not seem to be pleased with Him talking to a disreputable woman at the well, or allowing Himself to be anointed with expensive perfume that could have been sold and the money given to the poor.
Other potential disciples rejected him because he asked too much of them, or his sayings were too hard, or he would not keep feeding them food for free. Sometimes they rejected Him because He did not satisfy their expectations of being an earthly ruler rather than the ruler of a kingdom not of this world.
The most religious people of His day, the Pharisees, rejected Him because He healed on the wrong day of the week, or threatened their standing with the Roman government, or publicly reproved them for burdening the people with their interpretation of God’s law.
They even saw Him do the miracles and heard witness of Him raising the dead and still wanted Him murdered (they even plotted to have Lazarus murdered because he was evidence of Jesus’s power).
If someone who was perfect was unable to get the approval of everyone, what makes us think we can? But we do. And the evidence that we believe we can or should have this absolute or total approval, is how upset we get when anyone is upset with us.
What God calls us to is a belief that our value and worth are not based on what we accomplish, achieve, or who approves of us, but that it is based on who we are in Him and what His Son has done for us.
Jesus understood this or He would not have been able to stay on course. There were more people who misunderstood Him and rejected Him than accepted Him as he walked the Earth.
Dr. Duncan is a licensed and ordained minister as well as a licensed and board certified psychologist. He has practiced in Oklahoma for the past 33 years. He believes that Biblical truth and psychological principles can, and should be integrated in ways that honor God and his original design of mankind.