Thursday, October 22, 2009

Excuse me, do you validate?

There's a really cute video on YouTube called Validation. It's the story of a parking garage attendant whose mission in life is to make people smile by offering them words of encouragement. It's an uplifting little film that really makes you think about how powerful your words are.

But looking for validation in the eyes of other people is ultimately a hollow pursuit.

I've finally figured out that when I look for validation from other people, I'm really looking for validation from myself.

It turns out that's a bottomless pit.

Insecurity looking for validation is a greedy child on Christmas morning, surrounded by toys and torn wrapping paper, asking "Isn't there any more?"

Recent events have convinced me that this whole search-for-validation thing leads to every manner of trouble. Affairs. Addictions. Overspending. Eating disorders. Job struggles. Relationship struggles.

I'm seeing how connected these issues are to the insecurity-fueled drive to find worth in the eyes of another person, thinking once that person tells me I'm OK, then I'll be OK.

In his blog Stuff Christians Like, Jon Acuff wrote about seeing the beginnings of this in his 6-year-old daughter. She had been called a cruel name at school, and in her retelling of the event, Jon sensed the question "Is it true?" hanging in the air:
That’s a tough question and I wish it was one that we all left in childhood.

But it’s not, is it?

If I’m being honest, I ask myself “Is it true?” sometimes when I get a negative comment on this site or a hateful email. Someone tells me I’m a horrible writer or a horrible Christian or a horrible anything, and I start to wonder, “Is it true?”

Have you ever asked yourself that question?

Has someone ever told you that you were fat? Or untalented? Or unqualified? Or hopeless? Did a divorce try to tell you that you were broken, a job loss tell you that you were worthless or a parent that you were less than the child they hoped for?

Have you ever found yourself asking the question, “Is it true?”

We all do at some point and the challenge is that we often try to find the answer to that question in the wrong place....

Maybe you go to a memory, and try to relive a time in your life when you felt popular or loved.

Maybe you ask a new car or a new pair of shoes or a new anything your question.

Am I old? Is that true sports car?

Am I ugly? Is that true new outfit?

Am I dumb? Is that true new laptop?

And we ask and ask and ask, but regardless of the answer, regardless of if our loved ones provide a temporary salve to a question that hinges on our true identity, something gnaws at us.

The only thing I think we can do in that moment is ask the only one who really knows the answer to the question, “Is it true?” And that’s God.

He, unlike your friend, unlike your boss, unlike that shiny new toy you purchased to try to beat back the feelings of inadequacy, He knit you in the womb. He knows you like no other and He loves answering questions like, “Is it true?” and “Who am I?”
So my sense of my own worth needs to come from the One who made me, who loves me more than anyone else can, who died in my place, who drew me to Himself.

Validation from anywhere else is counterfeit.



  1. Pam,
    Thank you so much for posting this :-) It reached me... right in the midst of my insecurities. I've been asking the questions "who am I" and "is it true?" a whole lot lately.

    I believe most people struggle with these questions... it's where words of afformation and encouragement can uplift, and assumptions can tear down. We've gotta start from the inside out... turn to God first and trust that He is speaking truth (or will provide someone who can.) So many people speak without thinking... it is easy to grasp onto their words and accept them as truth. Many are speaking out of their own insecurities!

    Thanks for the reminder :-)

    PS- 'Romans' tends to have a plethora of truth...

  2. Dear Gina,

    You're right -- I think we all struggle with these questions. The only difference is what form the questions take in our life. I think it all stems from the same place -- the original rebellion, wanting to be God over our own selves.

    Words of affirmation and encouragement are so important, as you've said. I hope it didn't come across as though I wasn't in favor of them. I just want to remind myself not to give people hope in something that isn't real. I want my words of encouragement to lead people to hope in Christ, not in themselves or things of this world.


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