Looking back at my life, I realize that I spent a lot of effort trying to prove my self-worth. I have learned that responding to a need for validation is evidence we are on the wrong path, leading us away from God and His happiness.
When we were born here on earth, we were separated from God and the direct influence of His love. Some individuals refer to this as a veil or curtain of forgetfulness that keeps us from remembering our pre-earth existence with God. This separation from God and His love creates a void inside us that acts like a vacuum, drawing us in and making us self-centered.
Self-centeredness is the father of sin. Sin is nothing more than any action contrary to the will of God. It is God’s will that we become like Him, so any un-Godlike activity is sin. Consequently, all sin, in essence, is an expression of pride (our will versus God’s will). Pride is actually the only real sin. All sins are nothing more than pride expressing itself in various forms.
Dishonesty is usually motivated by a desire for approval or by selfishness. Decadent behavior results from a self-indulgent attitude. Violence is often an overreaction to something one is hypersensitive to or comes from a disregard for others. Vanity and the desire to be popular result from the craving to fill a void in our lives.
Interestingly, depression is a sister of pride because it often involves being too self-absorbed. Consequently, depression is the opposite side of the same coin as pride. Even trying to prove our self-worth through good works is a form of pride that is actually counterproductive. Improper behavior can usually be traced back to a desire to gratify some selfish impulse or to avoid some personal emotional issue. Interestingly, catering to any selfish interest only exacerbates the need for self-gratification. It does not solve the underlying cause but makes it worse.
Only God can fill the emotional hole inside us. As we engage in un-Godlike behavior, we move away from God, making the void in our life even greater. As we continue down this cycle of a self-centered approach to life, we become more miserable and unhappy until the quality of our life implodes, and we are left alone with nothing but ruined relationships.
There is, however, balance in the universe. So, along with the enticement to do evil, there is a comparable impetus to find God. Without this quest, we would not allow God to convert us to become more connected with Him. We need to be separated from God in order to exist in an environment where we are motivated to seek Him with sufficient intensity that we will allow Him to convert us. So, the very void that creates the environment for temptation and sin also acts as the impetus for positive change. This life is intended to be a metamorphosis in which we change and mature into the creature God desires us to become.
Change is often painful, so we resist it. Hence, we need an environment in which we are enticed by both good and evil. We choose what to follow. Hopefully, we learn from experience to choose the better part. Otherwise, we will relive our negative experiences over and over again and never resolve our issues so we will be able to move forward. The key to personal progress is seeking light and truth. The very emptiness inside us that draws us in to become self-centered acts as the catalyst to motivate us to turn to God. If we truly seek God, we will find Him, and He will convert us to become more like Him.
In this process of learning by the things we suffer, the Savior eliminates and offsets the consequences of our wrong choices. He lifts the burden (guilt) of our sins and also heals the effect (injury) sin has on us and on others. That is the miracle of the atonement. As we come unto Christ, he heals our souls by filling the void inside of us with his love. However, we must turn from a self-centered life to look out and up to God.
Consequently, whenever we respond to the void inside (a need for validation and control) instead of following light and truth, we pull in and away from God and His happiness. Are our actions being motivated by a fear of not being good enough, not being valued, or not being in control? If so, we need to let go and turn our hearts over to God so He can fill them. It is the only way to heal our souls. Otherwise, we will continue to live with our same old issues being expressed in a variety of ways. We progress toward God by facing our fears and not reacting to them. Instead, we need to choose goodness (light and truth) and let go of our fears. We need to respond to the inner voice that tells us to do what is right. As we follow that inner voice, we will learn to better recognize its promptings over time. However, we must first try to obey God’s commandments, which are similar to a parent calling to his child to get out of the street because a car is coming. Otherwise, how do we expect to recognize the whisperings of His Spirit if we ignore the warnings that He gives us?
God wants us to draw closer to Him. Once He has our attention, He will often whisper His will to us so that we will need to listen intently and draw closer to Him in order to understand the things that He whispers to us. As we draw closer and closer to God, we are thus able to understand His will more and more, and in the process, we become more like Him. As we come unto the Savior and follow him, we have more peace and happiness in this life, and after we leave this phase of existence, we will become joint heirs with Christ of all that our Heavenly Father has (see Rev 21:7). This is a much better outcome than seeking validation in our own way.