“I like you.”
Those three words sent chills down my 5th grade spine. It made me do crazy things, like circle “yes” on a ruled sheet of notebook paper that read, “Do you like me back?” and pass it through the hands of four friends to a blushing girl.
Being liked is powerful stuff. It makes politicians bend their convictions, and actors turn their heads.
But not being liked is just as powerful. In fact, the desire to be liked by those who don’t like you can be one of life’s most dangerous motivators. The more we try and appease the myriad of voices that sing our praise or ridicule, the more we tend to abandon our primary purposes. We become un-true to ourselves.
When All Eyes Are On You
As a pastor, I have the honor of wading into the arena of theology, and engaging—whether I want to or not—with everyone else’s personal pet doctrines. As a business man, I never run my businesses the way everyone else thinks I should, from employee to patron. And as an artist, I never communicate “it” quite the way everyone else would like me to.
No matter what arena you’re in, if you stand for something, someone’s bound not to like you. And if you have any ounce of humanity, you’ll at least think about how to get them to like you. I know I do.
Being liked isn’t bad; but trying to be liked by everyone is.
Because it’s impossible.
The transient nature of the human opinion is decidedly insecure. I believe it could be one of the sandy foundations Jesus talked about in Matthew 7:26-27:
But anyone who hears my teaching and doesn’t obey it is foolish, like a person who builds a house on sand. When the rains and floods come and the winds beat against that house, it will collapse with a mighty crash.”
Who Matters Most?
If being liked is an unavoidable goal of the heart—which anyone who says it isn’t, doesn’t have a heart—make sure you’re liked by the people who matter most.
I want my wife to like me. I want to know what she thinks. Her opinion matters a great deal. A thousand people can tell me I did a good job, but if she disagrees, then I did a poor job; similarly, the masses can say I was terrible, but her one word of affirmation can silence them all.
I want my kids to like me. Not loathe me. It doesn’t mean I don’t make the hard call, but it means that when I do, I do it lovingly. Part of my legacy is making sure their memories of me have integrity—that when they think back on me, they realize I was trying to model as much of the heavenly Father as I could.
I want to know what my closest friends think, my advisors, my pastors. I covet the “likes” of the wisest people around me. In a world where “like” is a cheap button-click away, I want the hard-won, deeply fought for, dig-deep kind of like that you can’t get from a screen, but you can only get from a look in the eye.
And most of all, I want my God to like me. I want my conduct to so much reflect his, that he notices himself in me.
Like of Love
The danger is that as we cater more to the opinions of people we have no relationship with, we actually suppress the value of the people who we do have relationship with. The very ones we claim we like are the ones we’re conveying deep disinterest toward.
In the end, being liked is merely the precursor to a far more innate emotional need: being loved. And being loved is more powerful than being liked, because real love is not as conditional on what we do, but more, who we are.
Make sure you’re liked by the ones you love the most. Everyone else can afford to be upset.