3 Ways in Which We Bow to the Idol of Approval

3 Ways in Which We Bow to the Idol of Approval - Grace Fox

Who doesn’t want to be liked by others? Who doesn’t want to find favor and approval in the eyes of man? I do. And It can become our driving force.

As North American believers, we often equate idol worship with bowing before objects made of stone or metal. We visualize it as paying homage to a religious icon that sits on a shelf surrounded by burning candles and incense. With that understanding, we find it impossible, even highly offensive, to think that we might be involved in idol worship.

But it’s true.

Take, for instance, the idol of approval.

Who doesn’t want to be liked by others? Who doesn’t want to find favor in the eyes of man? I do.

Sometimes, without our even realizing it, that desire for approval influences our attitudes and behaviors. It can become the driving force—the motivation—behind our goals and desires.

So how can we know whether we’re bowing to the idol of approval?

Here are three signs:


Maintaining a flawless image is of utmost importance lest others think we’re weak or inadequate. Our housekeeping is immaculate. So is our car, our yard, and our outer appearance.

We strive to be the best despite our endless efforts and subsequent stress nearly pushing ourselves (and those closest to us) over the brink. We refuse help from others because, heaven forbid, they’ll not fulfill according to our standards. What’s the motivation behind perfectionism? Our insatiable desire for others to think well of us.


Because we so desperately need others’ approval, we strive to control the people in our lives. As moms, we keep too-tight reins on our kids lest their behavior or dress reflect poorly on our parenting skills. As spouses, we nag and criticize, trying to change our partners lest their actions reflect poorly on us as husbands and wives. Or we speak negatively about them to others in a subconscious attempt to elevate ourselves.

We also strive to control our circumstances lest something happen that reveals a weakness in us. Fear lies at the root of our control issues, but we often don’t recognize that even when our relationships begin to suffer.


I remember the days when my kids were young, and I, as a stay-at-home mom struggled with feelings of not being enough. I responded by assuming church responsibilities—playing piano for Sunday worship and choir, teaching a children’s Sunday school class, becoming the Sunday school superintendent, and volunteering on the music committee. I also taught piano lessons, became a licensed daycare provider, and sold Tupperware.

All of these things were okay in themselves, but my motive for my busyness—recognized years later—was to receive a pat on the back, a commendation from others to affirm that I was okay or better yet—highly valued and competent in their eyes. My activities weren’t motivated by a love for Jesus and others. They were all about bowing to the idol of approval.

Nowadays, as an author and speaker, I have to guard my heart against busyness driven by a desire for others’ approval. I want my work—my speaking, my blogging, my social media activity and monthly newsletters—to be motivated purely by love for Jesus and my readers as opposed to my need for public acknowledgement and a publisher’s smile.

How do we stop worshiping the idol of approval?

By coming to a renewed understanding of God’s love for us. Imagine! He loves us enough to die for us, cleanse us from guilt and shame, hold us in His hand, guide us along the best pathway for our life, fill us with His presence through the indwelling Holy Spirit, and care for our needs now and through our old age.

The God who created heaven and earth is crazy in love with us

“Our fears for today, our worries about tomorrow, and even the powers of hell can’t keep God’s love away. Whether we are high above the sky or in the deepest ocean, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39 NLT).

Understanding God’s immeasurable love for us sets us free from the idol of approval. Perfectionism, a need for control, and busyness motivated by a need for others’ nods and smiles no longer drive us. Instead, we walk in freedom and inner peace knowing God loves and accepts us. What else matters?

How about you?

I’d love your feedback on these thoughts. Do you agree? Disagree?

Can you relate to what I’m talking about, or am I the only one who’s dealt with/is dealing with the idol of approval?

Know you are loved,


Moving From Fear to Freedom - Grace Fox

Order your copy of Moving from Fear to Freedom: A Woman’s Guide to Peace in Every Situation and discover practical steps for facing and overcoming some of the top fears women face today.

Available wherever Christian books are sold or order your autographed copy here.

Moving From Fear to Freedom - Grace Fox

Order your copy of Moving from Fear to Freedom: A Woman’s Guide to Peace in Every Situation and discover practical steps for facing and overcoming some of the top fears women face today.

Available wherever Christian books are sold or order your autographed copy here.

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  1. I am learning to live to please God only, (because of former disasters), but I don’t believe that can be done, without dealing with people. Now God has given me great love, for those who have hurt me in the past, and I can’t even believe how much love I have for all of them. I know I don’t need to please them, or do anything for them, but when led by the Holy Spirit, all the right relationships happen. It’s so much better.
    Our God is faithful………and it’s good to never quit…..never give up…………God is not going to give up on us! Bless His Name!

    1. Marge, hearing how God has given you such victory over painful relationships thrills me. So does knowing that He will, indeed, never give up on us.

  2. This is very good. It is so easy to get caught up in wanting others approval for what we are doing. I try to think of everything I do as service to the Lord and only want His praise for a job well done.

    1. You have a great attitude, Nancy. I often pray, “Father, please help me to do this task as an act of worship to You.” That helps keep my head in the right space.

  3. I love the Holy Spirit, but I get caught up in wanting flesh and blood people. I forget the “great cloud of witnesses”- or can’t feel them- and sometimes am sad that I never actually have seen Jesus Christ. All my approval seeking is likely from that root- wishing to have walked in Galilee as a disciple for awhile… Life’s duties seem empty. Is it imagination, or faith, that I trust Him?

  4. Great question, Christie–“Is it imagination, or faith, that I trust Him?” A familiar old hymn (based on Scripture) comes to mind: “I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I’ve committed unto Him against that day.”

    Faith is all about trusting this One who we cannot see. By faith we hold firm to His promises, encouraged because we’re surrounded by evidences of His presence.

    Have you ever read, “The Case for Christ” by Lee Strobel?

  5. I am learning to trust God more……at first, I did NOT do well. I would say, Lord, I trust in You…..and in less than an hour, I’d be losing it over something that happened……and then, I’d be sorry, and say, Yet, Lord, I trust in you…..and now it’s coming sooner and sooner, and before I lose heart. We can trust him when we again go and look at what he has done in the past; what he said he’d do, and that he did do it…….like Noah and the Ark, and like when His word prophesied that the Saviour would come, and then we are given the Nativity story, where He (the Messiah; Saviour) indeed did come……he was born into the world……he did appear. He will come again.

    1. Hi Marge. I think many people would relate to your faith journey of trusting and then losing heart, asking forgiveness, and trying again. You’re so right about finding encouragement by looking back to recall what God has done in the past. He told the Israelites to do that because He knew it would restore their faith in Him. The same thing is true for us.

  6. This belief is revolutionizing Christianity today. You hear it in music. The Cure is another book that shows seeking approval as wearing a mask. Christianity has had too much of that in and out of church.

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