Are You Addicted to Approval?

“Guard your heart above all else, for it determines
the course of your life.” ~ Proverbs 4:23

Addictions come in all shapes and sizes. There is drug addiction, food addiction, alcohol addiction, cigarette addiction, gambling addiction, pornography addiction and, new to our era, computer addiction. Anyone who is addicted to anything knows the incredible power that addiction wields over one’s life.

An addiction is an abnormal, compulsive need for something. That need may be physiological, psychological, or spiritual. While we readily recognize physiological addictions, we are often unaware of psychological or spiritual addictions. One such common psychological/spiritual addiction is the addiction to approval.

An approval addict is a person who derives his sense of worth from the approval of others and needs that approval in order to function and survive. The approval addict finds it difficult to make decisions on his own. On the contrary, he allows others to exert a major influence over his decisions.

For example, an approval addict may follow a certain career path because his father insists that he follow it. Deep down, however, the approval addict may want to pursue an entirely different career. Because, however, he fears losing the approval of his father, he will submit to his father’s wishes and live a miserable life as a consequence.

Take also, for example, the teenage girl who is afraid to say no when her boyfriend wants sex. Out of fear of losing her boyfriend, she does something that she knows is wrong and for which she will later pay a high and bitter price.

Or take the pastor who, out of fear of offending his flock and losing his job, waters down the truth and tells his congregation only what they want to hear, not what they need to hear.

While we all like others to approve of us, the approval addict defines his identity by the approval of other people. He has not learned to recognize who he is and who he is not. Nor has he learned to set healthful boundaries between himself and others. In short, the approval addict fears man more than he fears God.

In fact, addiction approval stems precisely from what the Bible calls “the fear of man” (Proverbs 29:25). This verse says that the fear of man brings a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord shall be safe. To fear man is to allow someone other than God to rule one’s life. A person in the grips of approval addiction allows a spouse, a child, a friend, or a boss to rule his life out of fear of losing that spouse, that child, that friend, or that job. Such fear, the Bible says, brings a snare. A snare is a trap.

By allowing others to influence him unduly, the approval addict walks into a trap of his own making. Unless he is freed, he will become more enmeshed in that trap. Eventually, it will destroy him.

If we are to live healthful, fulfilling lives, we must seek God’s approval above all else. In the long run, His approval is the only one that counts since He alone will eventually judge each one of us. To seek God’s approval is to fear Him in the sense of reverencing Him and taking His commandments seriously. The Bible tells us that this kind of fear of God is the beginning of wisdom (Psalm 111:10; Proverbs 9:10).

In practical terms, fearing God means that when faced with a choice between doing something God’s way and doing it someone else’s way or our own way, we choose God’s way. We must obey God rather than men (Acts 5:29).

Addictions are relentless taskmasters, imprisoning us and tormenting us even to the point of death. If you are addicted to approval—or to anything else for that matter–let the power of God set you free. Hear God’s promise to you in Isaiah 45:2: I will break in pieces the gates of bronze and cut the bars of iron.

God will set you free from your prison of addiction. Just cry out to Him. I promise you He won’t turn you away (Psalm 51:17).

Questions: 1) Are you an approval addict?  2)) If so, how will you overcome this trap?

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Copyright 2012-2019 by Dr. Mary Ann Diorio.  Dr. Diorio is a Certified Life Coach, a Certified Biblical Counselor, and a Certified Behavioral Consultant. She is also an award-winning, widely published author of fiction for children and adults. You may reach her at  or via one of her social media venues below: