Who is God? Who am I?
About the Guest
Our desire to be loved runs deep. Biblical counselor Ed Welch explains that our desire for love isn't evil, but that in some instances we want it too much; so much so, in fact, that we can be controlled by what others think. During adolescence we call this peer pressure, but we all struggle with it throughout our lives. Welch explains that we're either going to trust God and what He says about us, or we're going to trust in other people and seek out the approval and protection they can give.
Biblical counselor Ed Welch explains that our desire for love isn’t evil, but that in some instances we want it too much; so much so, in fact, that we can be controlled by what others think.
Who is God? Who am I?
Bob: Are you addicted to affirmation? Ed Welch says a lot of us are.
Ed: Here is what all people wrestle with—here is something I wrestle with: “What do people think about me?” and, “Why do I care so much about that?” The Scripture gives illustration after illustration that says how there are two possibilities. You either trust in God, or you trust in other people. You trust in what God has said, or you put your trust in other people and the approval and the protection that they can give you. That’s the story of life.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Monday, October 27th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I’m Bob Lepine. Just how much do you care about what other people think of you, and should you care at all? We’re going to explore that subject today. Stay tuned.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today.
Thanks for joining us. I have kind of an interesting question for you. If you were sitting down with somebody who was applying for a job, here at FamilyLife, and this person said to you: “I think one of the things that might qualify me for this job—one of the things that makes me hirable is that I am immune to peer pressure. I don’t bend to peer pressure. I do what I think is the right thing to do, regardless of what the crowd thinks is the right thing to do.”
Dennis: I would immediately do a drug test. [Laughter]
Bob: That’s a good answer!
Dennis: It’s like, “Yes; okay.” [Laughter] Last night, I was interviewing a young lady with Barbara, my wife—a young lady, I think, who will go to work with us, here at FamilyLife. That’s where I thought you were going with that. She didn’t have any statements like that, but we are all too desperately human.
We have a friend with us, back on the broadcast—Dr. Ed Welch, who joins us again on FamilyLife Today.
Ed, welcome back.
Ed: Thank you, Dennis. It’s good to be with you guys.
Dennis: Ed is a licensed psychologist. He is a faculty member at the Christian Counseling and Educational Foundation. He and his wife Sheri have two married daughters and seven grandchildren; and he has written a number of books. His latest one is What Do You Think of Me? Why Do I Care? You say, early in the book, you have written this book with 15-25 year olds in mind. Why did you do that?
Ed: I would have liked somebody to speak to me about these things when I was 15 and 16, and 25 and 30, for that matter. These are issues that we all wrestle with—and to be able to think about them, biblically, earlier on, is a great gift.
Bob: There is a destructive side to these questions you ask, in the title of the book: “What do you think of me?” and“Why do I care?” Some people’s lives are controlled by those two questions; aren’t they?
Ed: This morning, I read some material by a famous artist. His goal in life was to find some kind of approval—some kind of fame.
I read an article on political action groups and the big donors to these political action groups—they interviewed one of them. They said: “This is great! I finally have the fame—instead of being in the background, I am finally known and seen by other people.” You can see this desperate desire to somehow win the approval of others—and we are talking about people in 50s and 60s, at this point.
That’s the nature of life. It’s this high school reunion—that’s the experience of life—where you are trying to put your resume forward to these people you haven’t seen for a year, five years, and ten years—and you want to look a little bit better than the person next to you.
Dennis: And I just have to take a step back and ask more of a fundamental question—just about us, as human beings: “What is at the root of this desire to be liked?”
Ed: Certainly, the desire to be part of a group is a natural desire. That is part of the way we were created—so, to fit in, to not be rejected and cast out, to desire love from other people—that is just a plain, good thing. The question, Dennis—that you are getting at—is the question that we have to be asking ourselves in the Christian life. Some of our problems are not necessarily we want something that’s so evil, but it’s that we want something so much—that’s when things get difficult.
Bob: We have got to be relationally-aware to function well as people. The question is: “Are we controlled by what other people are thinking or feeling?” or “Are we aware, and alert, and responsive to that?” There really is a difference between being controlled and being responsive; isn’t there?
Ed: Absolutely. You’re going to—as you are talking, I’m thinking of two situations in my own life. One is—I have children and grandchildren. I’m looking forward to talking about these things with them a little bit more.
But the other is—I am married. This is a perpetual issue for people, who are married—that time when I don’t feel approved or loved—when my wife is thinking about me a little bit less than I would like her to think—that is the real crucible of marriage: “Will I be able to love her, at that point; or will I lash out in anger or turn away in my own grief?”
So, I want to be thinking about marriage; and I also want to be thinking, “What are questions I can be asking my kids and my grandkids?”
Dennis: Yes; and as you think about your kids and grandkids, it is the adolescent years when this seems to come out the most. I mean, that’s when we—as human beings, it appears—suffer from immaturity and emotional instability that makes us most vulnerable to peer pressure / to what other people think of us.
Ed: Well, it’s called peer pressure during the adolescent years. For some reason, when we are older, we don’t talk about it as peer pressure quite as much; but we struggle with it just the same. For some reason, we are able to talk about it with teenagers as if they corner the market on it, but they haven’t.
It certainly exists in my five-year-old granddaughter—when she’s afraid to go to school because she has an outfit that she isn’t quite sure what people are going to think of when she goes to school—and she cries hysterically before she goes to school.
Bob: I have two distinct memories from my adolescence, related to the subject of this book. One is being in the eighth grade and watching other guys and girls start to pair off—where somebody had a boyfriend / somebody had a girlfriend—and starting to feel, “I need a girlfriend,”—didn’t matter to me who she was—I just needed a girlfriend. I was being driven by what was the cultural surrounding I was in and felt a need for that.
I also remember being at a party one night. This was a high school party—a bunch of us together. I remember that there was this guy, who was a friend of mine—who was kind of quiet, kind of shy, a little reserved—and the girls thought he was just the cutest. I mean, part of his shyness and reserved—was a mystery that drew them to him. So, I thought, “Well, I need to start acting shy and reserved,” which was completely not my personality! Neither of those situations worked out well for me.
Ed: Here is the part of this discussion I find so, so encouraging—that we can multiply these stories forever. You can go back to yesterday—or you can go back to high school or you can go back to when you were four years old—and you can multiply the stories. What is encouraging to us is that so many people have taken their best shot at this particular human dilemma, and they are not eroding the thing.
We have this living Word of God—that both identifies it and gives us a way through it. It’s just another aspect of the sheer brilliance of God’s Word.
Dennis: Well, let’s talk about that for a moment. If you are coaching a mom and dad, who are raising a teenager—maybe a young adult today—and they want to really equip their son or daughter to have a proper view of themselves—where do they start?
Ed: Well, one place to start, real specifically, would be to ask these questions: “Son/Daughter, here is what all people wrestle with / here is something I wrestle with: ‘What do people think about me?’ and ‘Why do I care so much about that?’”—for us to be able to identify it in our lives and have the freedom to identify it because the Scripture gives illustration after illustration that says, “Welcome to humanity.”
It starts in the Garden, obviously—
—the sense of covering: “Don’t see me. I don’t want to be fully known by you.” You find that moving throughout Scripture. We find it in Jeremiah when he talks about how there are two possibilities—you either trust in what God has said, or you put your trust in other people and the approval and the protection that they can give you—that’s the story of life.
Jesus, Himself—I was reading this the other day. Jesus, Himself—in the Book of Mark / Mark 12—He was notable from the rest of humanity because they came to Him and said: “You are a man of integrity. You’re not swayed by the opinions of men. You are not trying to win the crowds over by saying all these nice, flowery things,”—they’re going to capture them. So, there is Jesus, standing out as being unique / He’s being distinct from the rest of us.
And then, Scripture moves to the story of Peter—
—which is the most disastrous story in all of Scripture, it seems to me—but it’s all run on: “What will other people think about me? What will this servant girl, around this charcoal fire, think about me if I show that I am somehow in league with this person who is being crucified?”
That doesn’t answer your question, Dennis; but, at least, to parents, it says: “This goes throughout Scripture. So, we put this in play with our family. That’s the first thing that we do.”
Dennis: What you are saying is: “We need to put us, as human beings, in proper perspective.” I think to do that you have to begin with God.
One of the things we did with our teenagers / preteens is—we would begin to teach them about the presence of God—who God is; how we are accountable to Him; how we need to live our lives, with Him watching and with us aware of His presence, and seeking to be obedient, in the power of the Holy Spirit, and not playing to the peers / to the culture that they are in.
Then, we would role play a scene that we figured they were going to face sometime. You know, you are out with a group of 15- to 18-year-olds. Someone shoves a can of beer or a drink in front of you and says: “Come on! Let’s celebrate this particular victory / or this evening / or whatever.” “Well, what are you going to do? How are you going to handle it?” Maybe the driver is drinking. At that point, the power to conform—the power to want to be with the group—is incredibly magnetic.
But you have to make up your decision in advance: “Who are you living for—for the crowd or for the King?” I don’t know, honestly, Ed, how successful we were because we don’t know all the choices—
Ed: But you put the question before them—which, in and of itself is, I think, so important.
Dennis: We did. We really based it upon the biblical character, Daniel, who made up his mind, in advance, what he was going to do.
I think the key with our kids today—perhaps, more than ever because this culture is really trying to seduce our kids—we have got to help them understand who God is. As a result of knowing who He is / who we are—put that in proper perspective—and then, begin to train them in good decision-making so that they don’t conform.
Bob: Now, wait; wait. It sounds like you read Ed’s book: “Who God is,” “Who are you?” and then, “Who are the other people?”—those are really the three questions that are central to your book; right?
Ed: The subtitle of the book is Answers to the Big Questions of Life. And the big problem—one of the big problems of life is: “What do you think about me? Why do I care so much about it?”
And that leads us, Dennis, I think, to exactly what you are saying. It leads us to these more primary questions, which are essential for us to be able to answer ourselves and to lead our children in answering them:
“Who is our God?” “Who are we?” and “Who are other people?” Those are the questions that really undergird this particular discussion.
Dennis: Our listeners have heard me use this quote—I’m finding myself using it with an increased frequency, here on FamilyLife Today. Bob probably knows exactly the quote I’m going to say, at this point. A. W. Tozer said this: “The most important thing about you is what you think about God.”
Now, why is that?—because the only way you’re going to have a proper perspective of who you are and who others are is if you, first of all, know who He is—who God is—and who you aren’t. You are not the Creator! You are not in charge!—but there is One, who we are called to obey, who is in charge.
That’s really where you start in your book. You talk about: “Who is God? He is holy. He is the Creator. He is the Redeemer. He’s the God who is present,”—it’s back to the fear of God.
This is really where we have to start with our kids; isn’t it?
Ed: Absolutely. What we have so far is: “Here is the problem. It’s a problem that all of us experience. Of course, we care about the opinions of other people, but we care way too much.” That’s the challenge—it goes back to these questions: “Who is God? Who am I? Who are other people?”
Dennis, what you are identifying, I think, is very important for us, as a family, to simply ask the question, “Let’s talk about who God is.” One of the great prayers of Ephesians, obviously, is that we would know more deeply of His power / of His love—to simply talk, as a family: “Let’s just talk about God because sometimes, for some reason, we don’t like Him. We turn away from Him. We don’t want to follow Him. What a curious thing. Let’s think about who He really is.”
That discussion is going right at the very heart of peer pressure and being too concerned about the opinions of other people because you’re making a new center to your life. It’s no longer the opinions of others—it’s God, Himself.
Bob: When Dennis mentioned Daniel, I saw you just wrote Daniel’s name down—that trigger something for you?
Ed: Well, we mentioned how Jesus stands out from the crowd as someone who was not swayed by wanting to win over the affection of the crowd. Daniel was clearly one who was not swayed by the crowd. That is such a distinction in Daniel—which goes to show that this issue is such an important issue for growing in wisdom: “How can we be wise people, who are simply ruled by who God is, rather than what we want other people to see us as?”
Bob: And that’s why Daniel was not swayed by the crowd because his relationship with God / his understanding of who God was gave him the confidence / gave him the courage to be able to say, “No, we can’t do what you are telling us we must do,” to the king / to the crowd.
He said, “We’ve got to be people who, ultimately, fear God more than we fear man”; right?
Ed: It just was so simple for him. And where did he get that knowledge of God?—where it was so simple—where: “Hold it! This is the God of the universe who has spoken. He is the one I worship. And here is this other king—who is the king of the most significant empire on earth—worshiping the king or worshiping the true God? I mean, there’s no debate on this!” It was very simple in this wise man’s life.
And perhaps, that’s one way to organize what we are talking about—that we want to grow in wisdom. It just so happens that one of the hallmarks of wisdom is that we are not dominated by the approval / by the wanting affection of other people—but it’s Christ, Himself, and His words to us that, ultimately, are controlling.
Dennis: You use an illustration that I’m reminded of as I take a sip of my coffee here—excuse me [Sips coffee]—stout coffee.
It’s delicious; alright? But you say this cup is an illustration of what takes place in our lives—that we are constantly looking to people to do what with this cup?
Ed: Now, you are getting to the question, “Who am I?” We can have all kinds of different answers to that particular question, but one that I’ve seen personally is—sometimes, I can be waddling around like this big old cup—and I’m going around—going to my wife / going to my colleagues: “Could you fill me up?” “Could you say something a little bit nice about me?” “Honey, could you tell me you love me?” “Could you give me some kind of affirmation?”
That all makes sense to us, but here’s the nature of that. When we live for the approval, or the love, or the affection, or the good opinions of other people, it’s insatiable. No matter how much we get, it’s never enough for the next five minutes.
Dennis: It’s the bottomless cup—is that what you are saying?
Ed: It’s the bottomless cup—
—or it’s this cup that has this nefarious leak, that every time something gets put in it, it all leaks out—you feel like you need a double amount the next day.
Dennis: There seem to be some people who need more in their cup than others. I don’t know if it’s because of the home they grew up in / maybe their own view of themselves—but they just feel needy.
And what you are saying to that individual person is—back to how they get their cup filled—is: “Don’t look, horizontally, at people. Instead, look, vertically, at God. Get into the Bible—into the Book—and start finding out who He is, how He loves you, what His plan is for your life, what He’s called you to do in terms of reaching out to others / having compassion on others—but live life according to how He designed it and explained it in the Bible.”
Ed: Absolutely. You are also, then, going to this second question, “Who am I?” That question has everything to do with: “What do I really need in life?”
That gets to our very identity: “Do we need the approval of other people?” Well, I certainly feel like I do; but then, we go to somebody like Daniel—we go to, obviously, the person of Jesus—and, all of a sudden, we realize we have more work to do with that question, “What is it that we really need?”
Dennis: Well, there is a Scripture that you quote in your book that I think is incredibly instructive—it is Matthew 10:28. This is a great verse for parents to pass on to their preteens and teens so that they begin to realize, “Who is it that they need to fear?” This is Jesus speaking here—so, listen up! “Don’t be afraid of those who kill the body but can’t kill the soul. Rather be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in Hell,”—that’s Almighty God.
What Jesus is really equipping us to do here is: “Who are we living for?”—it’s back to your illustration. You are either going to trust people, or you are going to trust God. You are either going to live for the crowd, or you’re going to live to please Him.
And I would just remind moms and dads, “You cannot impart what you don’t possess.” If you don’t live this way, it’s going to be hard for you to call your teenagers to turn away from the crowd if they see you living for the approval of people—how you dress, what kind of car you drive, what kind of neighborhood, what kind of stuff you have, the latest places you are going, and all the other ways we can compare ourselves with other people. Our message to our teenagers is probably going to be muted—not just a little.
So, we really need, I think, to get a book like yours, Ed, and begin with the parents to read it so they can—maybe, give the book, then, to their son or daughter, who is in the teenage years—and begin to interact with them about it.
And then, as they live life, talk about when you fail and when you were living your life for the applause of other people.
Bob: You wrote this book with the idea that a high school or college student could pick it up and read it—go through it even in a group setting; right? I mean, you had that target audience in mind.
Ed: To be able to do it in a community—in community with parents or even with peers—that would be ideal, certainly.
Bob: Well, we’ve got copies of the book—What Do You Think of Me? Why Do I Care?— in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. In fact, I gave a copy to the guy who heads up the student ministries at our church. They are going to be using it, this fall, with our high school students. I really do think this is helpful for young people—I think it’s helpful for young adults. I think it’s helpful for every one of us to recalibrate our lives and to be following the example of Jesus—loving others and not addicted to approval or applause of other people.
Again, the title of the book is: What Do You Think of Me? Why Do I Care? Go to FamilyLifeToday.com and click at the top of the page, where you see the link that says, “GO DEEPER.” You can order the book from us, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com; or you can call to order at 1-800- “F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then, the word, “TODAY.”
You know, we have just a few days left in the month of October. This whole month is Pastor Appreciation month. We’ve been acknowledging some churches that we are aware of where those churches are using FamilyLife resources as a part of their ministry. I just heard about Ambassador Church in Brea, California, where Ray Chang is the pastor. They had an Art of Marriage® event.
In fact, a supporter of FamilyLife, Agnes Chu, and Mike Huang, hosted that event at the church. We just want to give them a shout-out and say, “Thanks for hosting The Art of Marriage, and thanks for your support of the ministry of FamilyLife Today as well.”
We are donor-dependent, as Agnes realizes. That’s one of the reasons why she helps to support the ministry with a donation. We want to say, “Thank you,” to all of you who are financial supporters of all that is going on, here at FamilyLife Today.
In fact, one of the ways we’d like to say, “Thank you,” this month is by sending you a resource that Barbara Rainey has developed for her Every Thine Home® collection. It’s a chalkboard that you can hang in your kitchen or in your family room. It says, “In this home we give thanks for.” Then, there is a place for you to write, in chalk, whatever it is you want to write on any given day. It’s a great way to cultivate gratitude in the heart of, not only your children, but a little gratitude in your heart wouldn’t hurt either; right?
The chalkboard is our thank-you gift when you make a donation today. Go to FamilyLifeToday.com. Click the link at the top right-hand corner of the screen that says, “I Care,” and make an online donation. Or request the chalkboard when you call and donate over the phone—1-800-FL-TODAY is the number.
Or you can request the chalkboard when you mail a donation to FamilyLife Today at PO Box 7111, Little Rock, AR. And our zip code is 72223.
And we hope you can join us back again tomorrow. We’re going to continue to explore this issue of being addicted to the need for approval and affirmation: “Why do we care so much what other people think about us?—including our spouse or our kids. We’ll talk about that tomorrow with Ed Welch. Hope you can be here.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.
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