Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Seeking Attention

This morning, as we were sitting down to breakfast something just kind of "hit" me. I realized just how much the desire for attention drives human behavior. We crave attention. I see it in my children. I see that certain children act-out for attention. I see tattling for attention . . . drama, boasting, silliness, etc. I am not saying that at the root of EVERY behavior is the desire for attention, but it is the motive more often than we think. This desire is even MORE intense in adopted children. Most of them received little attention prior to adoption or what attention they did receive was negative. Isn't wanting attention just another form of self-glorification? Do we not all worship the idol of "self"?

Attention:

Why do we want to win?
Why do we want to be thin?
Why does it matter what our house looks like?
What does it matter what car we drive?
Why do we want our children to obey in public?
Why do women wear immodest clothing?
Why do we blog?
Etc.

Look at society: it PROVES my theory. Hollywood, musicians, athletes. And then, do we allow our children to choose role-models (ahem, idols) from these categories? But I digress . . . that is another topic for another day.

Now, I am not saying that these goals are wrong. It is the motive, or what drives the goal that makes it wrong.

I think that the goal of the Christian life is to "deny ourselves" and live for God's glory--living in such a way that brings attention to Christ, not ourselves. We need to give attention to God by the way we live. Maybe the things we do don't have to change: keeping a clean house, dressing nice, but maybe it is our MOTIVE that should change, our heart. In many cases, only God will be able to discern our motive in doing something. Why do we want our children to obey in front of others? So that they will see Jesus in our children and in us or so that we can receive credit for their good deeds? Nobody can really discern that motive but the Lord. We should habitually check our hearts.

Attention. It is similar to approval. It is more than acceptance. Acceptance is the lack of being rejected, but attention, in particular positive attention, or approval, connotes the positive regard and favor of others, an elevation of our self in their eyes, for something about us that is "extraordinary". Recognition, admiration. People's minds and time focused on us! Yes, God has gifted us with talents. But, for whom do we employ these gifts? Who do we draw attention to with these gifts? Do we take the credit for these gifts?

Then there is negative attention. Some are so desperate for attention that they act-out to receive it. Most of us, as adults, are "too mature" to act-out and vie for negative attention, but you still see it: on talk shows, reality shows and such. We see it around us everyday! Women who dress immodestly, middle-aged men driving sports cars, those who tell their life story a little too loudly in the check-out lane at the grocery store. Attention.

Why do we not share the gospel more? We fear man. Rejection. We so strongly desire approval. Living for God's attention means that we do not seek that positive attention for ourselves, that we may be "humiliated" in the eyes of the world. Do we want to look different at the mall, in our jobs, in our playgroups, at church (gasp!)? How is God calling us to draw attention to Him that may make us "red in the face"? Like King David, we may become "even more undignified than this," and "humiliated in my own eyes," 2 Samuel 6:22. We may lose the approval of our co-workers, friends, and the world. But are we supposed to be a friend of the world? Doesn't James 4:4 say "You adulterous people, don't you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God?"

So, here is how God confirmed these thoughts swirling in my mind:

Literally right after I had these thoughts I opened the kids' devotional randomly to read this morning at breakfast. There are over a hundred mini-chapters and I skip around. I opened up and today's verse just "happened" to be Matthew 23:12 "For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted." How cool is God?!! I had just finished sharing my thoughts with my children when I opened up to this particular devotion. I smiled at my kids and said, "God has confirmed what I just told you through His Word," and I taught them what this means and how it plays out in their lives.

Does my life draw attention to me or to God? Do I exude the fragrance of Christ? II Corinthians 2:16 says we are the smell of death to those who don't believe. Doesn't sound like positive attention and high regard to me.

I need to examine my own heart when I feel "wronged" by someone. Is it that I think they are not giving me enough attention or approval? I need to also keep this in mind as I parent my children and shepherd their hearts. My girls in particular will be prone to be immodest in attire to draw attention to their appearance or apt to reject a "gentle and quiet spirit" in favor of the world's latest fad of women who are bold, aggressive, and freely speaking of their mind. I really think this also applies to the heart of an adopted child and how they have been "programmed" in their thinking because of their upbringing before coming into our homes. Have they been taught to worship the Creator instead of themselves? We all are born sinful and that most often means self-worshippers. An adopted older child most likely has never been taught to not worship him or herself. Therefore, they want what they want and they do not want to accept authority. (I am not saying all "issues" in adopted children are directly linked to this; trauma plays a big part, too).

"Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ," Galatians 1:10

"May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world" Galatians 6:14

In Christ and wanting to draw attention to Him,
Laura

3 comments:

One of us Dragonfryes said...

Laura,

This is a great post! I have been thinking about these very things for the past few weeks. I see some issues in my personal life that really have been bothering me about my seeking attention. Great post. Thanks!!

Tina

Jen said...

Laura ,

Yes! So much of older adopted children's behaviors are attention seeking (as well as many of our own behaviors!). Tedd Tripp, in Shepherding a Child's Heart, says that children will either worship God or worship idols (including themselves). How true this is in all of our lives.

We have found that large doses of affection (as opposed to attention either positive or negative) coupled with teaching our children to worship the Lord (which involves being under His authority) has definitely helped to change their hearts which then changes the behaviors!

Love all of your devotional thoughts!

Jen

free_to_dream said...

Laura,

How cool to see someone so devoted to her faith! I love finding other people who seek to honor God.

--Sarah