How much of our behavior is influenced by a yearning for others’ approval and acceptance? Genesis 28:6-9 makes a fascinating study in this regard.
Isaac had expressed his disapproval of Canaanite women. “Don’t choose your wife from this group,” he’d warned his son, Jacob. Jacob listened to his dad’s advice and left the country to find a life partner from among his uncle Laban’s daughters (28:1,2)
Enter Jacob’s brother, Esau. He knew the warning Isaac had given to Jacob, and he knew Jacob had heeded the advice. That meant trouble for him. You see, Esau had married a couple of Canaanite women. When he realized his father’s obvious dislike of his wives, he must have felt like he’d messed up and fallen from his dad’s favor. How did he respond? He ran out and married a cousin, doing exactly what Isaac had commanded Jacob to do. Interesting, eh? His yearning for approval influenced his behavior.
My hunch is that many men and women do the same thing today. We long for others’ approval so we do things we might not do otherwise. For example, we choose a career based on someone’s approval rather than on our passions. We sacrifice moral standards to secure someone’s favor. We marry someone based on others’ favorable opinions about this person rather than on our own feelings toward him/her. We even dress according to others’ approval rather than according to our personal tastes in fashion, color, and modesty.
What’s at the root of this behavior? An inaccurate understanding of God’s great love and unconditional acceptance. Think about it. If we truly grasped His love, we’d feel completely fulfilled and cease striving to earn man’s favor.
Esau undoubtedly yearned for his father’s favor. Marrying a cousin—someone upon whom Isaac smiled—was his method of obtaining it. Can you relate in some way?