Do you have an Audience or a Community?
I used to hate piano recitals. And when I say hate, I mean I really hated them. Actually hate probably isn’t even a strong enough word. Think more like: despise, loathe, dread.
Just ask my Mom. I would make myself sick over these things.
I hated them because I was afraid I would mess up. Performing in front of an audience terrified me. My dad always used to tell me not to care what the audience thought. My mom and instructor always told me the audience would never know it if I did mess up. But when it came down to the actual performance, nothing they said mattered. Because as soon as I stepped up on that stage, I no longer heard their reassuring comments playing in my head. As soon as I stepped on that stage I was no longer performing for them. I was performing for the people who filled the seats of the small auditorium. The audience of parents who probably only really paid attention to the performance of their sons and daughters, but who’s very presence still managed to stare a hole straight through any confidence I ever had in my ability to play the piece that I had prepared for them. No longer could I hear my parents’ and my instructor’s words of affirmation. The only thing I was waiting to hear was the applause of the strangers who filled the cold, foldout chairs in the small auditorium.
Living for the Likes, Wanting More Followers
From the very first ovation we hear – or in this generation, the very first like we get on Facebook or Instagram – we are subconsciously programed to seek that sense of approval; we are subconsciously programmed to let others (the ones doing the liking or applauding) determine our worth. We live for the likes and we crave more followers so that we can get even more likes.
Affirmation becomes our drug of choice.
This was hugely true for me when it came to high school sports. Sports were my thing in high school, and I lived for people to see that. I think (/hope) I remained mostly humble in the way I carried myself, but when it came to how I truly felt, I wanted to be the best and I wanted every one I knew to affirm that.
I remember in high school, some of my older friends decided – for reasons I have yet to comprehend – that they were going to have one of our basketball games be called, Anna Hughes Night. (Again, for reasons I cannot explain). And it ended up being a fairly big deal. They made a Facebook event, t-shirts, hung banners around the gym, and told most all of my teachers and guidance counselors. And despite the awkwardness, shyness, and confusion that I (and my parents) responded with, I secretly hoped it would be a big success. I secretly hoped that a ton of people would come to the game and that I would play awesome.
Because deep down, I craved that affirmation. I craved that popularity. Deep down, I relished the idea that that many people could like me; that that many people would come out to a girls’ basketball game to support me, on Anna Hughes Night.
And I think we all do to an extent. Maybe you don’t want to be the star athlete or the center of attention, but we all desire some form of affirmation that lets us know that we are accepted as a person.
In this day and age more than ever we strive to only share things or only do things that we think will get us a lot of likes from the friends and followers we have on social media.
I know I do. Especially as a writer.
As a writer, how many people like you or follow you essentially determines how many books you will sell. If people don’t know you, or like you enough to follow you, they’re more than likely, not going to buy your book.
And I want so badly for people to read what I write. I want so badly for my books to be liked and read and popular and make it on to the Best-Sellers lists. And if I’m not careful, I’ll end up writing only what this world says they like. I’ll only be a mere people pleaser – not a world changer.
If we – as members of this new, “progressive” generation – want to truly make a positive difference in this world, we are going to really have to do a gut check on everything we do and why we do it. Are we passionate about what we are passionate about because everyone else is passionate about that particular thing? Or are we passionate about it because we believe in it.
Do we live a certain way because everyone else approves of it, or do we live in a way that we know coincides with truth and produces everlasting fruit?
When we live for the likes we let the people who are doing the liking determine who we are. That is why Paul encourages us to avoid making people the ones we perform for. He knows it will only lead to disappointment and destruction.
“Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.” -Galatians 1:10
Don’t seek followers, seek community
Audiences are really unavoidable. All throughout life you will have someone grading you or judging you, or analyzing your performance.
But scripture suggests we take a little bit of a different view of this whole performing for likes thing. Scripture actually suggests that our worth isn’t based on our performance or how many people “like” us in this world – or how many followers we have on Instagram or Twitter. Scripture suggests that our worth is based on something that has already been finished, and that we aren’t just liked, but that we are actually loved.
Scripture calls us to stop seeking an audience, and start seeking relationships – in community with each other, and with our Lord and savior, Jesus Christ.
Audiences critique us, while community lovingly encourages us towards goodness and truth.
Scripture calls us to do life with each other, while remembering that we are living this life for His glory, and His glory alone – we’re living so that people will come to like and follow Him, not us.
And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
Spur one another on towards love. Do good. Encourage one another. So many good things this piece of scripture gives us on what community is to look like. So many good things that all of our Facebook and Instagram friends and followers just can’t do for us – at least not in the same way that real, tangible community can.
I love how it says, “…not giving up on meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing.”
We are so quick to give up on this idea of community and meeting together. So quick to believe the enemy’s lie that we can do life on our own, behind all of these filters, and still experience joy.
But we must fight through it. We must continue to meet together. We must continue to strive to be vulnerable with each other and break down all of the filters this world tells us to put up.
It is the only way we will ever get through this life and be able to look back and love the story that our lives told. It's the only way to look back and know we played our role in His story.
“To be loved but not known is comforting but superficial. To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. But to be fully known and truly loved is, well, a lot like being loved by God. It is what we need more than anything. It liberates us from pretense, humbles us out of our self-righteousness, and fortifies us for any difficulty life can throw at us.”