I have a tendency to worry far too much about what people think about me.
I’m much better these days, but when I was a kid I wasted a lot of time drenching myself in this worry, in the possibilities of what they might think. And this would so often become self-perpetuating: casting my own insecurities on others would only throw them right back at me, and then others would, indeed, think less of me.
Not long ago a friend talked to me about the concept of an Audience of One. The idea is that as a follower of Christ I should not be seeking approval from anyone but Christ, and in fact looking for validation in what others think of me leads to nothing but despair, because my value isn’t in what others think, but in what God says. As a sick person, I’ve learned this even more to be the case, because I’ve weaved so many words around my own self, words like useless, hopeless, flaky, just a pain in the proverbial etc etc. I’ve spoken these words and expected they are what others think, too, and then found that some, indeed, do think this and do speak these words over me just as much as I do myself.
(I’m not talking about you, obviously) 😉
And I’m not talking about my friends or my family, because they are all the loveliest of lovelies. But I am talking more about society and the words society weaves around people who are seemingly useless. Words like scrounger and skiver and lazy and burden. These kinds of words slither into your subconscious and then grow in your mind until they are too big to fight and take over your thoughts.
These kinds of words slither into your subconscious and then grow in your mind until they are too big to fight and take over your thoughts.
So where does Audience of One fit into this?
It’s a bit like this: When my children were little they enjoyed taking part in their nativity plays at school. We had angels, wise men, cows, donkeys, shepherds and elephants. Yes. Those well-known elephants present at Jesus’ birth. Clad in these costumes they would search the hall, their eyes roaming left to right through the audience, searching for one. For me or their dad. They were not interested in what everyone else in the room thought of them. All they wanted was our approval, our love, our joy in them. At the end of the performance it would be us they bounded over to, falling into our arms. ‘Did you like me, Mummy? Was I good?’
And we would hug them and pour words of acclamation over them and tell them they were brilliant, that we loved them, that we were incredibly proud of them. Words they needed to hear from their audience of one.
It’s a bit like that, because our audience of one whispers those words of acclamation and delight into our ears every day, and if we take time to hear those words we can use them to chase away the other words, the words others speak over us. The negative words, the words which hold us captive and keep us caged into our own self-hatred or despair. If we take time to listen to the whispered words, what we hear is that our Father is proud of us, that our Father takes joy in us, and that we are worth everything. There is no uselessness or worthlessness in the words whispered from our audience of one.
So maybe if we stop looking around the room at everyone else and seek only the One who loves us more than any other, we might find that it is all the approval and delight we need. If we stop that desperate search for others to like us and to think we are great and chase only the One who already thinks we are great, we might find our souls at peace and rest. We might find joy unspeakable.