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The Approval Trap …


Politicians seem to live and die by their approval ratings and in an election year we are inundated with reports of the various candidates and their approval ratings. It is easy to be critical of them for making decisions and adjustments based how they think others will react. But politicians are not the only ones caught in the approval trap, many pastors, and others are as well.

There is a great temptation as a pastor to judge things in our ministry by how much approval we receive for the things we do. This is not a fun thing to confess but it is huge temptation for pastors and many others.

Approval is a very enticing thing. Who doesn’t prefer approval over disapproval?  But this seeking approval can create problems such as …

  1. We may avoid difficult topics or conversations – If we are seeking approval we are looking for more “thanks, that was nice” than we are “I hadn’t thought about that” comments. As pastors we often seek the “nice sermon pastor” comments rather than “ouch, that one really hit me hard”. I told one of my congregations to not bother telling me “nice sermon” because I was more interested in my sermons making an impact than making them feel good. That was a bit of overkill on my part, but I knew that I could become addicted to “nice sermon” comments and preach in order to receive them. I am not proud of that truth, but it is the truth. I am confident that I am not alone in this area. Have you avoided some conversations recently because you were seeking approval?
  2. Seeking out those who give us approval rather than those we can help – We are here for a purpose and a major part of that purpose is to help others. We may be motivated to spend our time and energy doing things for the approval of those who will give it rather than seeking to help those who may not heap their gratitude upon us.
  3. We may become discouraged or depressed when approval is not received – When we seek approval we easily become discouraged when we do not perceive that we are receiving enough of it. When we continue to seek the approval of others and continue to believe that we are not getting it we can eventually become depressed. This is not an overnight event, but if we don’t recognize why we are discouraged we can spiral down this path.
  4. We can begin to make poor decisions while chasing the approval we crave – If we are chasing approval and not receiving it while doing what we believe to be right, we can start to make compromising choices hoping for approval. It starts out slowly and those first poor decisions can be easily rationalized in our minds. But unless this is recognized, confronted, confessed and changed we may begin to make some very harmful choices, all for this elusive approval.
  5. We are hesitate to confess that we have been snared by the approval trap – A powerful statement used in recovery ministries is that you are only as sick as your secrets. When it comes to recognizing that we are in the approval trap, we (especially pastors) can be very slow to confess this issue. The main reason is that we convince ourselves that it is not a real trap and that it is really not a big deal. The second reason for our hesitation is that we are usually ashamed to admit that we have been trapped by the desire for approval.

There are other problems with the chase for approval, but these 5 should be more than enough to make us stop and consider if we are being trapped. If the answer is yes, then admit it and talk with someone. I will try and address some steps to conquering the approval trap that I have had to take, and continue to take, next week.

Here’s hoping you can be honest with yourself as you determine if you are caught in this trap. Here’s hoping that you can talk with someone you trust about this possibility. I will be praying for all who read this post, and if you would like for me to pray for you specifically then leave me a comment and if you do not wish for others to see the comment just add that to your comment.



About dennyowens

I am a pastor, writer, and coach who is seeking to encourage people to follow Jesus and regain hope. I am a husband to a wonderful wife and helpmate, a father to great kids who are following Jesus and a grandpa to the greatest grandkids in the world. I have been a coach for many sports and a coach to a few pastors as well. I love sports, love to read, love to fish and love to do anything with my grandkids.

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