Wanting to be Liked

I want you to like me. Yes, you. Whoever you are. I really, really want you to like me.

I want you to like me so badly that I may avoid giving you bad news because I’m afraid. Afraid of your response causing you to not like me, to get mad at me or think I’ve misled you in some way. Even if I’m confident that this bad news is not at all my fault.

The more I like you, the more afraid I am that I’m going to let you down.

This plays out in my friendships, my work relationships and in interactions with prospective client families at work.

Maybe you think I need thicker skin, I probably do. Maybe you think I’m insecure, I may be. But, here’s the thing I’m realizing — if my identity is in how people perceive me and my goal is to be liked, I’m going to live and die according to what people think.

Yikes.

As I’ve been walking through John with a friend of mine, we ask every week, “What does this passage say about man?” Each time we’re reminded that it’s easy to sit back and think we would do differently, but that maybe we aren’t so different.

“Yet at the same time many even among the leaders believed in him. But because of the Pharisees they would not openly acknowledge their faith for fear they would be put out of the synagogue; for they loved human praise more than praise from God” (John 12: 42-43).

The “they” that John is talking about is the crowd. This specific crowd, it is documented, saw “so many signs” performed by Jesus in their presence. But they were afraid of the fallout of acknowledging their faith in Christ.

I’m not so different from the crowd. In wanting people to like me, I’m seeking after that human praise. In running from giving bad news, I’m demonstrating my fear of man.

It’s not all bad to be likable. After all, kindness, compassion and empathy are Christ-like qualities. But when being likable by people is my primary goal, my identity becomes what others think of me and not what God says to be true of me.

So often I’ll think, “I wish I didn’t care so much.” But John’s words about the crowd reflect that it isn’t that simple.

There’s a line in a Taylor Swift song, “Band-aids don’t fix bullet holes,” that applies here. Stick with me for just a minute. We can’t put a band-aid on a serious wound, we have got to get to the root of the issue.

Asking for a thicker skin would simply be a band-aid in the greater issue of my identity. I need to want praise from God more than human praise. I need to value God’s view of me over man’s view of me. I don’t need a new list of goals; the core of my identity needs to shift.

So if I can’t just put a band-aid on or add this to my to-do list, how can I move forward?

  • Notice and acknowledge the behavior.
  • Repent and ask for forgiveness from the Lord. Truly, I wouldn’t see lasting change without confessing that the old/current way that I’m acting is wrong.
  • Pray for guidance and that the Holy Spirit would direct me moment by moment and day by day. When I gave my life to Christ at eighteen, I was given a new heart, but the rest of my life will be learning how to live in light of it. This being a Christian thing is a process.
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