The Power to Withhold Approval

A friend of mine said something to me yesterday about one of her family members that resonated with me.

“By seeking her approval, I was giving her the power to withhold it.”

Similarly, a few weeks ago, My Love said, “I don’t empower others to hurt me today.”

I’m beginning to realize that I give some sort of power to everyone I encounter in my life, and that I need to find another way.

I was riding in a car with a friend when another car cut us off, and my friend went a little nuts, with swear words and hand gestures…you get the picture.  I said, “why are you letting a stranger fuck with your serenity like that?”

That sounds really with-it and together and recovered, doesn’t it?  Except I let people fuck with my serenity all the time!  Why does it matter whether it’s a stranger or a friend?

In my case, it would probably be easier if I let strangers do this, because an encounter with a stranger is a one-time event, and then it’s over.

Instead, who do I let upset me?  My mother.  My Love.  My children.  My students.  My boss.

A popular Al-Anon slogan states, “Expectations are premeditated resentments.”

How can I get better at meeting people where they are, rather than where I expect them to be? How can I take back the power to hurt me?

The only answer I can think of right now is that I can’t, but Father God can, and I need to let him.

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.


5 thoughts on “The Power to Withhold Approval

  1. This post really resonated with me. I do the very same thing. As a matter of fact, I was talking to my Mom last night and it became very apparent how, even though we are both Christians, we take an extremely different interpretation. And I felt that she probably thought I was wrong and it bothered me. Why would I let it bother me except that I wanted her approval. I know I’m the one out in left field in my family and I need to stop craving approval for that and just embrace who I am. Thanks for the reminder!

  2. Laura says:

    That’s some pretty powerful stuff. I have never heard the phrase “Expectations are premeditated resentments” before, but, YES! I think this is why I try to expect so little of my husband, but the disappointments still happen because I still have desires, you know?

    • Yes, I think I still have a lot to write about this issue. Maybe a follow-up blog post is in order. Can we avoid having expectations? Is it even sometimes desirable to have expectations? Can we have expectations without being surprised and disappointed when people fail to live up to them? It’s a difficult thing for me to wrap my mind around.

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