Genesis 30:9-13 – BUT WHAT WILL OTHER PEOPLE THINK OF ME?
All of a sudden she is here, arguing with me. When I question her motives she turns and says “Don’t kid yourself. You care about what others think of you! You think happiness is being liked by others. Everybody does. What will my wife/husband think? What will my parents think? What will my friends think? What will my work colleagues/boss think? What will they think of me if I disagree with them? I’ll be un-cool. I can’t be caught wearing that!”
With a look of resignation she says, “Whether I like it or not my status is based on what people think of me. I live my life for their recognition.”
She frowns and confronts me, “Although you must resent it at times, if you are honest with yourself, you feel better about yourself when you have a following on the internet of people who like you, a social acceptability rating. A younger Gravatar. A little more hair.”
Before I can object she shouts “So stop judging me! People need a little help in what they think about me. The first impression. It is up to me to manipulate that, how skilful I am to control those impressions. I deserve it.
How stupid it would be to think that I don’t need anyone’s approval but my own. I don’t live life in a vacuüm. I need you to love me. I won’t ask you outright, like you do on Instagram and your blogs, but I secretly want to know “What do you think of me?”
Now with tears in her eyes she pleads “I need your approval. It’s a game of chance. If I’m lucky, I’ll win. I don’t have low self-esteem, as long as you respect me. I accept myself if you do. I love myself if you do. I forgive myself if you do. I make my own decisions if you approve of them. I am happy, complete, fulfilled and loveable as long as that’s what you want. It works better that way. I fit in. I’m accepted and acceptable and likeable. You do like me, don’t you?”
Then, before I have time to reply she is gone as quickly as she came. I find her again in the pages of Genesis as I continue to read…
She has already been blessed with children of her own, but now Leah becomes concerned that Rachel might have an advantage (Genesis 30:9). When she discovers she is no longer able to have children, she wonders whether she will be accepted.
So without too much trouble Leah convinces Jacob to take her servant, Zilpah, and sleep with her. Zilpah’s child will legally belong to Leah. Zilpah doesn’t have a choice. Human trafficking seems rife in this dysfunctional family. Leah names the child Gad which seems to mean “good luck or fortune.” I’m not so sure it was for Zilpah.
She enters a game of chance and luck and neglects her destiny. Leah, did God withhold more children from you deliberately? Have you failed the trust test? When my life seems barren what do I do? Manipulate my circumstances on the chance that I’ll be loved?
When Zilpah bears a second son, Leah names him Asher, or “happy.” Happiness in the midst of mutual jealousy between sisters is false. I want to help Leah to see that true happiness is found in her relationship with God, not in a competition with Rachel and not in compromising her trust in God in order to gain approval from others.
But Leah says, “What joy is mine! Now the other women will celebrate with me” (Genesis 30:13 NLT). There is no mention of God’s celebration of her son. Does Leah know that her thinking is dysfunctional and distorted? Do I? Or am I so concerned what others think about me that I forget my relationship with God. John speaks of the religious leaders as those who “…loved human praise more than the praise of God.” (John 12:43 NLT).
The story of Leah helps me find my security beyond human recognition, social-acceptability, status, and appreciation. Security based on human praise is so fragile and so easily lost. It is a game of chance. God invites us to find our self-esteem and happiness, not from others or from ourselves but from a relationship with Christ. He knows us better than we know ourselves and loves us. He invites us to a fruitful life, based on His Truth and a recognition of His blessings. It is not dependent on what others think about us. Trusting in Christ enables us to live beyond our insecurities.