Love or Approval?


This weekend, I had dinner with a dear friend; she mentioned that she felt like the Universe had a very specific message for her: It was time for her to stop pleasing others and to start pleasing herself. She said that she’d heard the same theme over and over throughout the day… My husband chuckled and said, “I think that message is for Kara, too.”

I confess that I am a pleaser. I’ve always thought that this trait made me thoughtful and unselfish. But, now I’m wondering what makes pleasing others so important to me?

I’ve spent my entire life believing that love is conditional. In order to be loved (or even liked), I must please those who are closest to me. I don’t think that this was a lesson that I was ever taught, just a core belief that I’ve held as long as I can remember…

In her book Kitchen Table Wisdom, Rachel Naomi Remen writes: “Of course love is never earned. It is a grace we give one another. Anything we need to earn is only approval.”

I love this quote. I am embarrassed to admit that I have never conscientiously separated love and approval before. But, they are definitely two very different things.

It is critical that my children know that they are loved by me without conditions. Of course, I want them to try to maximize the gifts that they’ve been given. Of course, I want them to make choices that will set them on a path leading to a happy, healthy life. Of course, I want them to do what I want, but these are not conditions that must be met in order to receive my love. I will love them even if I don’t approve of all of their choices. It is critical that they understand that love and approval are two different things.

The truth is that as much as I believe that I know what’s best for each of my kids, I may not. I want to raise strong, independent children who consider others’ feelings, but are capable of pleasing themselves, too – without guilt.

Ultimately, I want my kiddos to live authentic lives that bring them happiness and success. In order for them to achieve these things, it is entirely possible that my husband and I may need to get out of their way as they grow into independent young adults.



13 thoughts on “Love or Approval?

  1. fittoservegroup says:

    Ahhh the beauty of grace! It can’t be earned just received. The only way I have been able to love unconditionally is to receive the love that God has bestowed on me unconditionally. There is something powerful that occurs when you know you are loved and accepted by God. Not by anything earned just because He does. You can then offer that same love and grace to others. Do I always get it right? No, but when you love others without needing their validation it becomes a very freeing thing. 💕

    Liked by 1 person

  2. leslieweighill says:

    Great post. So many people want to raise strong and empathetic children but fail to realize how important unconditional love and emotions are. My best advice is to understand the physiological capabilities of children (at their various ages) and help them learn about and how to control their emotions. Empathize and comfort them through tantrums. And no public shaming. Name emotions and allow them to be expressed, while limiting behaviour.

    I believe this will help them differentiate between love and approval. They need to know they are loveable and loved, even when they’re angry. That anger is natural and human. But being mean (bad behaviour) is not ok.

    I’ve followed you. I want to keep reading!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • kara says:

      Thanks, Leslie – that is great advice. It really is important to help kids (well actually all of us) understand emotions and to separate them from behavior. I truly appreciate your thoughtful response.

      I just checked out your blog and am so impressed by your vision. Thanks for the follow – I look forward to following your adventures and important work in Uganda.

      Liked by 1 person

    • kara says:

      I’m not familiar with marmite – had to Google it! Sounds like you make a great sandwich. Those little expressions of love are important. I swoon when my husband cleans up the mess after dinner. 🙂


  3. Michele Anderson says:

    Enjoyed your post, Kara. I believe in unconditional love too, and have tried to teach my children that by never having conditions on my love for them. I too have a family situation where there is an individual who has conditions on her love and acceptance for me. It’s sad, but there’s nothing I can do about it. All any of us can do is to have no expectations for anyone and just be accepting unconditionally.


    • kara says:

      I always love to hear your feedback, Michele. I have not considered the importance of adjusting my own expectations, but you are absolutely right. That is great advice. Thank you for sharing your wisdom. 🙂


  4. ellenbest24 says:

    Hello, I came across from dream big dream often to virtually meet you. This post intreagued me enough to make me follow and read. Your children haven’t withdrawn their love, they have hid it from view for a while because they know how much love means to you. Now your love is a lever for them to pull a point to measure against. They come without a haynes manual we can’t mend them every time they breakdown or know exactly if we do the right things, we can only make choices that feel right and love them even when they think we wont. Pleased to be here reading your thoughts, thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

    • kara says:

      Thank you for your beautiful, insightful comment. I really wish that each of my kids came with their own instruction manual; that would really save me a lot of sleepless nights! You are right – I must love them through each phase. It’s nice to meet you – I look forward to following your blog, too.

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s