The Toxic Fumes of Human Praise

Monday, someone hurt my feelings.
A group of someones, really.
And in a flash, as if I’d entered a time machine and  transported back to the school cafeteria, I was in junior high, standing at the table of cool kids and there was no seat for me.
I am a fifty-two year old woman and I let myself be reduced to a mass of insecurity by some cold shoulders and a few hurtful words from people who don’t know me very well.
The next few hours were miserable.
What to do? I thought.  What action could I take? How could I fix this predicament? How quickly could I turn this around so that
they liked me.
I need to work on these relationships, I thought.
Maybe I need to confront them. Maybe I need to compliment and flatter them. I need time to work on these women. Yeah, that’s it. Or maybe I need a refresher course in relationship building and fast.
Wow. Seriously. How old am I?
Four hours away from the situation and I began to see it for what it was.
Foolishness.
How desperately did I need these people’s approval?
Why did I care so much?
What’s wrong with me?
Still wrong with me.
It’s been many years since junior high but, apparently, parts of my soul haven’t grown up.
When I realized how messed up my thinking was, I tried to straighten it out on my own. You know, clean up the mess before God noticed it.
Brilliant, right?
By evening, I realized I needed not to hide from Him. I needed Him to help with the clean-up. I needed the cure.
The cure Jesus used liberally and what I believe was His chief strategy in combating the temptation to put the praise of men above the praise of His Father.
“But now even more the report about him went abroad, and great crowds gathered to hear him and to be healed of their infirmities.  But he would withdraw to desolate places and pray.”  Luke 5: 15-16
I took myself out of the game for today.
Today I spent time with God
and a lot of time away from other people.
At one point, as I reflected on how easily I succumb to craving the approval of others, I imagined myself sitting in a room of others. They praised and complimented one another for hours but ignored me the entire time.
If I’m honest, I knew it would get to me. I would be torn up and broken down emotionally, not by physical blows but simply by listening to people praise others while they ignored me.
Not my proudest revelation.
But a few hours alone, praying, reading scripture, walking in the sun, remembering who God is, who I am, and what my life is about,
and I was struggling to appreciate why I’d reacted so strongly the day before.
Why had I cared so much in that moment? What was the big deal really?
It had been a message from God,
a prompt,
a prod,
a goad,
“you’ve been out there too long, Lori. You need time with Me – and NOW.”
I didn’t need to work on those relationships – I needed to be present for the primary relationship in my life – the one with Jesus Christ.
A day in His presence set my priorities back in order, calmed my nervous fears, addressed my self-doubt, and renewed my perspective.
It was as if I’d become intoxicated by people’s opinions and God pulled me aside, poured hot coffee down my throat, and helped me clear my head.
Jesus did this all the time.
He knew the risk of falling under the spell of His own approval rating. Spending time alone with His Father provided an oxygen mask from on High
to overcome the toxic fumes of human praise.
I’ll be back in the game tomorrow but with a closer eye on scheduling my time with God and pulling aside to check my perspective with Him.
Monday seems like such a small matter after time in the Shadow of the Almighty God.
Whew. That was close.
How about you? Any close calls lately?

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6 Comments

    The Conversation

  1. Lori, this spoke to my wounded spirit today. Delivered through your blog but straight from my heavenly Father. Thank you.

  2. Lori, this spoke to my wounded spirit today. Delivered through your blog but straight from my heavenly Father. Thank you.

  3. Maurie says:

    Lori, I was there for six years on a small mission station feeling alone among a “family” of missionaries. Now I ask myself, Why did I care so much? I needed time alone with the Lord more often than I took time. Here I am in North America now, and I can still fall into the trap. Thank you for reminding me whose smile of approval is the only one that matters!

  4. Anonymous says:

    I had a meeting last night that sounded like the one you attended. I began to question whether or not God had really called me to be the Superintendent of the Sunday School. These were all “Christian” workers in the church. And I was treated as though I was an invader from a foreign country. I came away wounded and insecure about my own place in this ministry. Because it was a church meeting, I had immediate access to the pastors. The woman leading the meeting I had attended met with the pastors and me. Things were put into perspective. Praise didn’t happen. But assurance was given that God had a call on my life but it wouldn’t be easy to answer that call. This morning I spent time praying for my wounded self (that God would help me to love these people) and praying for them (that God would help them see Truth and learn to love their neighbor (or at least stop shooting at her.) After my prayer, I turned on my computer and read your blog. Timely, healing, Truth. So often you write as though God knew my problems and was answering them through you. Thank you. MOMMA

  5. Anonymous says:

    Oh Lori, How I struggle with this. When I was a child, I was teased for SO many reasons. My soul never healed. I won’t go into the reasons here, but funny how people will hone in on our exterior flaws, and never realize how detrimental those arrows inflict innner pain. Kids are cruel, and those wrongs carry over into adult life so often. As I’ve gotten older, and now MUCH older, I use these experiences to help heal hurts. They serve to pad with compassion, my foster children, and through them, God has allowed me to see exactly what all this is, and thus heal my inner self in the process. Sure, I hurt from time to time, ’cause guess what? It isn’t just kids who are cruel. But now, I turn it over to Jesus, feel sorry for those who aim to harm, and try to remind myself: God look on my heart, and that’s what really matters, and what others mean for harm, He will use for good.
    Thnaks for this post.
    Donnalynn Davis

  6. Pam Manners says:

    Wow. I deal with this almost daily. And my reaction mirrors yours. God has been calling me out, calling me to come away with Him, but I’ve been running away. Trying to lick my wounds, while He is offering to heal them.

    Thanks so much, Lori. This post opened my eyes and unclogged my ears, and caused me to turn and run the OTHER way — towards my Lord and my God.