By Oswald Sobrino, J.D.; M.A. (Econ.); M.A. (Theo.); M.L. (Master of Latin), doctoral student, University of Florida.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Avoiding the Idol of Social Approval

It is easy to spot the obvious idols. It is harder to spot a much more subtle idol: getting the approval that we want from others. For the sake of the approval of others, some have destroyed themselves in the process. We see it in the financial world, in the world of male-female relations, in the academic world, and certainly in the political world. It is trendy to speak of human beings as being "hard-wired" for this or that. Well, it is clear that all of us have a great thirst to be affirmed by others. It is a healthy and natural desire. But it can be dangerous.

The believer has an advantage over the non-believer: disapproval from others is never a "make or break" matter. For the believer, detachment is a great weapon because the source of our self-worth and self-respect does not come from other human beings but rather from the Creator alone--much as we say that our human rights are not bestowed by any government, but rather from God (or, for non-theists, by "nature"). Hence, all human evaluations are inherently relative and questionable. The only unquestionably reliable source of evaluation is our Creator, and no one else. The result of this world view is great freedom, peace, resourcefulness, and creativity in the face of obstacles. The believer should never be paralyzed by obstacles and resistance from sources, individual or collective, that lack the power to make any definitive judgment about any of us.