Validation issues and shame are a big barrier to living a life of freedom in our 30’s and beyond. These two issues have been lurking below the surface for a long time, and this is often a time when they bubble up in an ugly way. Today I am going to talk about 2 reasons for issues with validation and shame, and the 2 FACTS that will set us free.
Reason 1: Misunderstanding who I am
Deep down, we all know that we are losers. We know that we are sinful, lustful, cowardly, weak, lazy, etc, etc, etc. John Eldredge calls it the Poser that is inside us. We all have an inner poser. And so we spend our life hiding. We use humor or athleticism or intelligence or tattoos or booze or morality or volunteerism at church. Whatever ‘our thing’ is, we use it to hide that part of us that is shameful. Since Adam, we have a deep need for fig leaves. The problem with the 30’s and 40’s is that we are old enough that we know better and can’t use the ‘immaturity’ excuse any more, but we still have not achieved the levels of holiness that we expect. We have lost some of the invincibility of our youth, and it has been replaced with a more sober self-assessment of who we really are.
Reason 2: Seeking validation from the wrong places.
I am very naturally a people-pleaser. I deeply want to make people happy and make them like me. But the deep and dangerous problem is that the person who has the power to validate you also has the power to shame you. Men are scared of their wives because they have handed them the license to validate them. Guys – have you ever wondered why you get so angry when your wife gives you the ‘mom-look’ or when she shoots you down because of her headache? It might be because you have appointed her as Chief Validator of your life. For others, it may be your boss, who can chop you down with just a few negative comments on your annual evaluation. Or your parents, who you feel will never be pleased, no matter what you accomplish. Or maybe it is God, who you imagine is sitting upstairs with his arms crossed and a disapproving frown on His face. When we seek validation from the wrong places we are at risk both when we get validation and when we don’t. We can be pompous and arrogant when we feel validated, and filled with anger and shame when we don’t. Again, these issues often reach a high point in our 30’s and 40’s.
So, what do we do?
Solution 1: Remember who you are. Remember that the sinful false self is NOT YOU!
We have no need for fig leaves – Jesus’ blood covers us. Crucify the flesh, because it is the poser inside us. He is not me! I am no longer a wretch. I am no longer a sinner, technically. God sees me as holy, righteous, and redeemed. Do you believe it? Romans 7 and Romans 8 has the classic case, where Paul reminds us that it is not him, but sin working in him.
Solution 2: Seek validation accordingly. My only source of true validation can be that I am God’s son.
Boys from a small age are constantly seeking validation. And crucially, when we are little we can receive validation from our parents, especially from dad. And that is good, because as a father I am the representation of God the Father. But Luke will need to find his validation elsewhere when he is grown. I should no longer provide his validation. And because I am God’s son, and because he is pleased with me, then I do not need validation from any other source! I do not need validation from my career. I do not need validation from my bank account, or the car I drive. I do not need validation from my peers, coworkers, or my family. I do not even need validation from my wife. True, she still plays an important role in my life, and she will always have a special power to build me up or tear me down. But she is not my final source of validation – God is! Think how fundamentally this can change your viewpoint. The next time someone asks you a question and you are tempted to fake like you know the answer, you can instead say “I don’t know.” The next time you make a mistake, instead of hiding it or blaming someone else or circumstances, you can say “I messed up.” This kind of freedom is so attractive to me, and something I want to pursue with all my heart.
The Rest of Your Life Awaits
It is important to take this opportunity and handle these two issues now in order to finish your race well. This is the time of my life to worry less about image and more about impact. Only then will we be free to do what God has called us to do! I believe that the decades of the thirties and forties can be a time of amazing growth if you are able to work through these fundamental problems. Let’s work through them together!
OPL Mid-Life Series