The desire for approval is common among us. We like to be liked. This, I assume, is a common trait throughout most of humanity.
But I’m wondering, as technology and communication change, if this element of human nature is playing a larger role in our society and personal development than ever before.
The desire to be liked often causes us to say only the things we know people want to hear. And there is a danger in that for both the giver and receiver.
First, as the receiver, when we only hear the things we want to hear, we are rarely pushed into areas of needed growth. Criticism can be helpful—and it should be welcomed, especially when it comes from the people who love us most. Second, when the voices around us act as only an echo chamber of our personal beliefs, we miss opportunity to see the world from a new perspective.
The first danger of avoiding criticism is just as prevalent as it has ever been. If we do not surround ourselves with people willing to speak hard truth into our lives, we are left with little opportunity for growth. We ought to value those who challenge us in positive ways and also receive their criticism with grace and patience (however difficult that may be).
But the second danger appears to be disproportionately more prevelant in today’s heightened world of communication. For many people, digital platforms have become the new townsquare. Even more, our digital lives form the foundation for the influences we seek in our life. We follow our favorite authors, artists, entertainers, and thought-leaders.
This is all fine and good—I am thankful for the opportunity that technology has provided for me to reach you today.
But there is a downside. When we get to single-handedly pick all the people that we allow to speak into our lives, we are less likely to select people with opposing worldviews shaped by unique circumstances. It’s not always easy to allow people into our lives who we disagree with—and even more difficult to not quickly dismiss their words when we do. But these are needed for life improvement.
Seek out voices that say things you need to hear—not just the things you want to hear.
But I’d like to consider another angle to this conversation. There is a danger to us when we only hear things we want to hear. But there is also a danger in being the person who only says what other people want to hear—and I think our ever-connected world has made that more possible than ever before.
My life wasn’t always so focused on minimalism. As I have mentioned on numerous occassions, before becoming a full-time writer, I was a pastor at a number of different churches. I loved my job and found great meaning in it.
My desire to promote minimalism was as much accidental as it was anything else. I was introduced to the lifestlye by my neighbor… I started this blog as an online journal… but as people started reading it…. I became more and more energized concerning it. Simply put, I enjoyed the fact that people were drawn to the message—their positive response fueled my passion and minimalism’s opportunity to change the world.
Because positive reinforcement always encourages more of the same behavior, when people are drawn to the things we are saying, we are more inclined to repeat them. And the more we repeat them, the more likely we are to believe them.
This is good when the words we are speaking are beneficial to the listener. But this can be detrimental to us when the words we are speaking are not helpful or when they perpetuate a lie that we repeat only because the listener wants to hear it.
As I raise my children, I praise them when appropriate. And they enjoy the compliment and shower of praise. But there are times when they need correction as well. And I can only serve as a loving father if I am willing to take the step and speak hard truths into their life.
In the same way, I think we need to see our role in the world the same. There are times to comfort, soothe, encourage, and praise. But there are also times to speak unpopular truth into people’s lives and into the world around us.
Do both. And receive both.