If you need more than one person to make you feel loved, you’re going to be in trouble.
This is one lesson I, thankfully, learned early. And I learned it high school when I first wondered about what the word “cool” meant. Someone had told me, “You’re cool, David” and I asked him, and it felt good, until I asked him, “What does cool mean?” and he said, “You know, cool. You’re cool.”
Anyone with a brain knows that you can’t define a word with itself. It’s like telling someone that the meaning of chocolate is chocolate or that eunoia means eunoia. It won’t make sense to anybody.
Being told that the meaning of cool was “You know, cool. You’re cool.” made no sense to me.
So I decided to ask my classmates. The definition I got was “Cool is basically when you fit in, when you do things people like.” But this led to another problem: different people like different things. For example, there were a bunch of people who liked rap, and so thought rap was cool, but there was another group that liked loud rock and roll, and thought rap was dumb and rock was cool. So liking rap meant being cool to the rappers and uncool to the rockers. So apparently “cool” was moving target. No one was ever totally cool. Everyone was always cool to someone and uncool to another. Trying to be cool to everyone is like wearing an earring, a bandana, having long hair, black nails, bobbing your head to a beat, while screaming your lungs, while wearing tight but low-wasted jeans, and…
You get the picture. Trying to be cool to everyone was the best way to make a fool of yourself.
Like a true nerd I also looked it up in the dictionary and the definitions had more to do with temperature saying stuff like, if I remember right, “not hot” or “low temperature”, which was a problem for me because while I cannot classify myself as being “hot” in the looks department, I was very hot headed and would get really hot on my interests.
Finally, I asked my dad, who, as readers of my blog know, sometimes comes up with the most weirdly sensible answers. I asked him, “Pop, what does cool mean?”
Pop: “Cool? I don’t know. Check the dictionary, or ask your mom, or Joe.”
Me: “I checked the dictionary. It said “not hot.”
Pop: “Oh ok. So you already know.”
Me: “What does it mean when someone calls you cool?”
Pop: “That’s a good question. Ask mom or Joe. Who called you cool?”
Me: _saying my friend’s name_
Pop: Oh ok. No need to pay attention to it then.
And that taught me everything I ever needed to learn about the word “cool”, and it’s this: I don’t have to pay attention to everyone’s opinion of me. In fact, there are some people whose opinion shouldn’t matter AT ALL to me
To be continued… I have tennis in half an hour.
Ok. Where was I?
There’s no need to be cool.
There’s no need to try to win the approval of a fickle crowd who have shifting standards.
The world needs standards – fixed standards, such as units of measure, quality levels, service agreements, minimums, boundaries. We need a level we can agree on. Imagine a world without standard units of measure. How would we know how far we have to travel? How would we know how much cloth we have to cut, or how much floor was used in our favourite recipe, or how much something costs? There would be no way to transact without standards.
The whole cool game, the whole validation game, is a world of shifting standards. There’s no way to really win here. What’s cool today isn’t cool tomorrow. To live by the world’s trends is to build on shifting sand.
Shifting sand. That’s a place the Bible says very clearly NOT to build on. And what does it mean to build on shifting sand?
“But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”
– Matthew 7:26-27
It’s quite simple really.
Difficult, to obey completely I must admit. In the areas where my heart is not completely built on the Word of God in obedience I find my greatest insecurities. Why? In these areas, my foundation is on shifting sand, moving with the currents and tremors.
This includes building our identity on the wrong things.
I’ve come to realise that we build our identities through what we love. What we love, where we put our affections will dictate the standard we measure ourselves by. Notice when a person loves someone, he or she, now bases their approval on how the loved one responds. It’s sad that many parents have not taught their children to discipline their affections. They don’t realise that they have failed to lay a strong foundation for secure identity anchored in loving unshakable things.
This is why God says very clearly that the first and greatest commandment is simply to Love God with everything. Because then He will become your standard because it is His affection you seek.
Sometimes, I find in my own life that I seek more the approval of other Christians more than God’s. This is only slightly better than seeking the approval of fickle men. At least I’m more likely to do good things for approval, but it still won’t satisfy because even the opinions of men change.
If people want to kiss dating goodbye and you happen to be dating then you’re the odd one out. If most decide to date and kiss I Kiss Dating Goodbye goodbye then the person who kissed dating goodbye is legalistic. That was confusing. The point is even these things change.
But the Bible says God never changes. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. So the path to a secure identity is to base it on Him – not the latest, greatest interpretation of a Christian principle.
To base it on Him is to love Him. To love Him we must find Him. To find Him we must seek Him with all our heart. To seek Him we must turn to Him. To turn to Him means to repent. To repent means to humbly recognise that we can do nothing without Him.
My simple point is this: don’t build your identity on the shifting standards of the world or the shifting standards of human opinion or popular interpretations of even religious groups. Instead truly seek God daily. Allow Him to define you by saying, “I don’t care about what others say, whether they think I’m a rebel or a legalistic person. I will wake up every day, pray first thing, and ask You, what do you think? What do you want?”
Sometimes I find that we forget that our Christian faith is not about self-actualisation but about loving God. No wonder we don’t find ourselves.
Matthew 10:39 says, “Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.”
We keep using religion to find ourselves, forgetting that that very religion is saying, “You won’t find yourself looking for yourself.”
I wrote on my 2012 year-end blog:
Love God. To love God is to lose yourself to Him. And I’m confident here’s what you’ll find:
Yes, you are a warrior, but not an irritating do-gooder. You’re a warrior in a battle that is not against flesh blood but a spiritual battle won with prayer, with faith, with reliance on God’s grace.
Yes, you’re a princess, but not an entitled critical brat. You’re the daughter of the King of an upside-down kingdom where servants are great, faith is valued, and love is the greatest of all. Servants don’t have entitlements, they spend themselves to make others better. Faith is not grumbling or frustrated. It is hopeful and expectant. Love is not critical and selfish. It is patient, and kind, and not envious, and looks for the best in others, and protects others, and doesn’t gossip.Now that’s attractive. Way more attractive than a Christian Xena.
Yes, you are a man of God, but not because you’re more special than anyone else, but because you reflect God’s heart, which is a heart that loves others and lays itself down for the benefit of others.
Now that’s worth following, because a man who follows Christ’s example is someone who will love you by laying down his life.