Thursday, March 30, 2006

Divine approval

Today’s Dear Abby moved me. It’s about the nightmare problem of not having approval from your own mother.

I never had this problem, my mom is excellent (Hi, Mom!). But I’ve had friends who struggled with this, and I’ve seen the damage it can do to young people as I’ve become friends with my kids’ friends.

I have sought approval from the wrong places, however. So I just wanted to share what I learned about approval a few years back.

I was working in a high pressure job with two strong bosses, one male and one female. They, too, were both excellent. However, I brought with me some character issues that played out in this intense environment. I kept finding myself caught between the two of them. One would want one thing, and the other would want something in the opposite direction, and I would flail around trying to please them both.

It hurt me on some level that no matter what I did, I thought that one or the other of them would be angry with me. I felt I couldn’t please one without pissing off the other. This continual sense of imbalance made my days very stressful—I often thought my job was in jeopardy.

Finally, in a meeting with the female boss, I broke down. She was very patient with me, and after listening, said, You know, it’s not about pleasing him or me. It’s about pleasing God. (We talked about spirituality regularly in this workplace.)

This was a shock to me. Not about pleasing people? How else does a person keep their job? But she was right. The only way actually to succeed at this job was to do what God wanted me to do, not people.

That evening something strange happened. I went home, and for some reason, took out my journals from middle school. It just happened that I chose that evening to show them to my daughter. As I leafed through, I found an entry that said, “Mom and Dad never let me do anything! They don’t give me any say!” These were the rantings of a frustrated pre-teen, but they sounded very familiar.

And it finally crystallized for me that I’d been carrying this around for all those years. I’d been trying to assert my autonomy over authority figures throughout my life. But the beautiful thing about being a student of Christian Science is that when things like this come up, you know what to do. It was instantly clear to me that this had always been an imposition on me. It had never been my role to have to do what others thought I should do. My real job had always been to express my own unique individuality as God’s creation. If I did that, *God* would approve of me. I didn’t need anyone else to approve.

This was enormously empowering! I went back to work the next day a changed woman. As I sat in meetings or got directives, I listened through the filter of what did God want *me* to do or say. After all, only I could fulfill the role God had for me. I couldn’t wait for someone else to give me permission to do it.

I began to participate with more creative ideas, and to add value to the discussions rather than just do what was asked of me. I began to find inspiration that resolved any conflicts in instruction. I learned gradually how to communicate honestly. We became the tightest team ever, and I eventually grew into a management position myself.

Being hurt by a lack of human approval can be left behind. It is always an imposition on us, and, no matter how extreme, it’s not a permanent part of our being. The folks in Dear Abby took action in their own way, and we cheer their progress. You too, or anyone you know who is suffering from this, can leave it behind and find the real source of infinite approval—God.


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2 Comments:

At 3/30/2006 11:24:00 AM, Anonymous Emily said...

Being torn between two bosses with conflicting demands can be very frustrating. I wish I'd known how to handle it when I was in that situation a few years ago. Work would have been a lot more pleasant.

 
At 4/01/2006 02:39:00 PM, Blogger Kiran Paranjape said...

There is an excellent Subhashita (quote) from Gita, an ancient religious text. It says
"karmanyevadhikaraste ma faleshu kadachan"
Your right is to do your duty & not to the fruits thereof.

 

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