Article By: Sarah Koontz, Founder of Living by Design Ministries
Imagine with me, for a moment, a kind of life where people’s opinions no longer matter.
A type of existence that is completely satisfied apart from the validation of colleagues and peers.
To wake up each morning at peace, filled with hope and purpose for the day, knowing that nothing and no one holds the power to derail you.
Oh, how I long for such a life!
Unfortunately, it all seems so out of reach.
Something to be longed for but never achieved.
How can a person possibly survive without validation and affirmation from others?Imagine with me, for a moment, a kind of life where people's opinions no longer matter.
For years I believed that nothing could make me feel more valuable and worthy than to receive words of affirmation from the people I respect.
I am a hard worker and I long for people to notice me…
to tell me that I matter.
to show me that I am necessary.
I have a confession to make; a story to share that makes me feel shallow and vulnerable.
But something that I must own up to if I ever want to be free from the affirmation trap.
From a young age, I was told I was beautiful and talented and could do anything I put my mind to.
Therefore, I felt beautiful and talented and capable of taking on the world!
I lived a validated life.
I received affirmation on a regular basis, and I relished in it.
Apart from that validation, I would NOT have been a confident young woman who excelled at many things.
I would not have felt beautiful, or worthy, or capable.
My entire identity was formed around what other people saw in me.
Yes, I knew Jesus.
I knew He loved me and that He wanted my identity to be tied up in Him.
But there was simply no need.
I already knew that I was full, complete, lacking nothing.
Until, suddenly, it was all stripped away!
When I was 16 years old, my world crumbled.
I thought I was popular, I thought I was necessary, I thought I was irreplaceable.
But, seemingly overnight, I had become invisible.
My friendships and status simply vanished and I felt alone for the first time in my life.
The affirmation stopped and I was lost.
I was drowning in a sea of emotions that I had never before experienced and I did the only thing I could think to do.
I cried out for help.
I asked God to fill the gaping hole in my life.
I came to him broken, truly broken for the first time in my life and He received me with open arms.
It was then that He reminded me that I WAS full, complete, not lacking anything.
Full in HIM.
What I hadn’t realized was that I had been finding my completeness in what others thought of me.
When it can only be truly found in Jesus.
He is the only one that makes us full and complete.I came to Jesus broken, for the first time in my life, and He received me with open arms.
He was my lifeline at the moment I needed Him most and I do not know how I would have survived apart from His love and grace.
When Jesus said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you,” He meant it!
He is faithful when we are surrounded by faithlessness.
He loves us when we are unlovable.
He restores our hearts and minds when we find the strength to trust Him.
I managed to pull through that challenging season of life and eventually things did get better.
Unfortunately, as my circumstances improved, my deep need for Christ decreased and I fell back into the affirmation trap.
Yes, the affirmation trap.
For me, it will always be a trap.
Wooing me away from the Savior and into the arms (and good graces) of humanity.
As I stated at the beginning of this article, I long for the kind of existence where the opinions of others do not matter to me.I long for the kind of existence where the opinions of others do not matter to me.
I desire to be the kind of person that lives a life wholly focused on God, utterly abandoned to His purpose and calling.
But time and again, when forced to choose between God and man, I am lured to the latter.
I crave the feeling of satisfaction that comes when someone compliments my work, tells me I look beautiful, strokes my ego.
The affirmation tries to get me every time.
I wish that I could wrap up this article by saying I have found the hidden key and freed myself from this trap.
I have not.
Not yet, anyway.
But can I tell you something?
I think there is still hope for me.
I cannot escape the feeling that I will, in fact, find a way to live free!
A truth that has the power to change everything for me.
I had been immersing myself in their lives, searching for the reason why these specific people were capable of leaving such a remarkable legacy of faith.
To live a life and write a story that outlasts me and impacts future generations is my deepest desire.
Having that kind of lasting impact upon the Kingdom of Heaven is what my dreams are made of.
And these people succeeded at doing exactly that.
Do you know what sets them apart from you and me?
Why their lives were so meaningful and their stories so full of power?
The answer is simple, yet so profound.
God, in His mercy, helped each of them break free from the affirmation trap.Are you stuck in the Affirmation Trap? Ask God to help you break free!
For Martin, it happened when he posted his 95 Thesis on the wall.
There is no way a monk would turn against the Catholic church unless He found his identity in Christ alone.
And for Aunt Fanny, it was the moment when her school superintendent pulled her aside and confronted her about the futility of living a life to please others.
She never forgot those words, and they prepared her for the good works God had planned for her life.
But the one that has reached me in the deepest place is the story of Oswald Chambers.
He lived such a small life but was utterly and completely surrendered to Christ.
He never got to see the fruits of his labors, but his words are touching millions of people even to this day.
He never received validation for his work here on earth.
And he did not want it.
That is the part that gets me.
He didn’t want it!
Because his heart belonged to God, and his mind and spirit were focused on Christ alone.Protect your heart from the 'Affirmation Trap' so you can work for the Lord alone! Col. 3:23
He found freedom from the affirmation trap, and never looked back.
And God used him in such a powerful way.
Pray for me.
I long for emancipation!
To extinguish my desire to receive validation from men.
To live my life for Christ alone.
What a wonderful kind of life that would be.
Oh, the freedom, I can taste it.
Won’t you join me in this pursuit?