There’s been a lot of coverage in the media over the last year regarding social platforms and the detrimental effects they can have on mental and emotional wellbeing. Statistics for anxiety and depression continue to grow at an alarming rate and male suicide is at an all time high. Social media sites aren’t bad things, and in fact, when used for good can have a positive social impact and be a useful marketing tool. However, I do believe they have highlighted some of the deeper heart issues that affect us as a society. They are platforms which magnify the void of their users. The truth is, we all long to feel important, loved and that we have something significant to offer. Social media, along with the constant access to a continuous stream of everyone’s consciousness, helps magnify the brokenness of our humanity which seeks validation and value in the wrong places and for the wrong things.
Little children are the greatest truth tellers because they are unable to mask their feelings like adults. Sienna often searches my gaze for approval when she’s built a tower or swooped down a slide. She now preempts my response with self-applause followed by a proud exclamation, ‘wow’, before I even utter a word. In her little mind, she’s developed a confidence in my affirmation after consistent reinforcement. Naturally, children seek approval and validation from the significant carers in their life. I’m sure most of us would agree that giving praise and encouragement are an important part of raising healthy children and therefore hopefully healthy adults. As a parent, I’m acutely aware that the way in which I respond to both good and bad behaviour, success and failure, will set the foundation for how she approaches life. As I observe Sienna’s innocence as she gleefully awaits my praise, I can’t help but think that wanting and needing approval isn’t such a terrible thing. Maybe it’s even innate. However, what’s more important than me praising her achievements is the reassurance of my love in all circumstances. Whether she’s succeeded or failed at a task and whether she’s exhibited good or negative behaviour I try my best to always let her know that no matter what mummy still loves her. What she’s ultimately looking for is acceptance.
“The action of making or declaring something legally or officially acceptable.”
“Recognition or affirmation that a person or their feelings or opinions are valid or worthwhile.”
It’s interesting that the word ‘validation’ finds it’s meaning rooted in legal terminology. When something or someone is validated, it brings credibility and right standing. In a court of law validation of a person’s testimony or innocence could be the difference between freedom and imprisonment, for some even life or death.
When we look for likes and comments on social media or rewards and praise from external sources, what we’re really hoping for is that someone will justify our existence and efforts. The trouble with this is that we will always be required to do more and to be better in order to feel that our existence has purpose or that someone somewhere cares.
The good news for all of us is that there is Someone who always cares, always sees and always approves because we, His children were created in His image and He longs to be connected to us. His approval and acceptance aren’t based on our achievements and what we can or can’t do for Him. The truth is we would never measure up. Our validation is assured because he stood in front of the Ultimate Judge and took all of our pain, shame and guilt upon Himself in order to make us eternally in legal right standing with Him. We are legally approved and accepted with full access to to the goodness of His Kingdom.
Let’s work hard, make goals, post our highlights for family and friends but hold everything lightly and remember that there’s a big fat tick that presides over our lives whatever season we’re in.
“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.”
Romans 8 v 1 – 4