Approval Addiction: How People Pleasers Can Become Substance Abusers

Couple dancing

“For they loved the glory that comes from men more than the glory that comes from God”

-John 12:43

From a very young age, I remember taking great pleasure in making others happy. Whether it was a parent, teacher, coach or friend I always appreciated and enjoyed knowing that I could bring joy and purpose to other people’s lived.

People would always tell me; “Wow, we appreciate the way you love and care about us”. As a pastor, it wasn’t uncommon to have people say; “God has used you to minister to and comfort us in some significant ways”. There probably aren’t too many more things in life more exhilarating than being a part of someone’s redemptive story.

What I didn’t know was that my God-given gift of loving, caring about and helping others would become a crippling addiction in which the rewards of pleasing others (i.e. the “atta boys), replaced what should’ve been my real motivation…pleasing God.

Even the secular media sees the danger of “approval addiction”, and with the rise of “social media shaming and bullying” there’s all the more reason to spend your life trying to please everyone else.

Recently the Huffington Post put together an article to help readers determine whether or not they had an addiction of needing others approval [1].

The Problem With Approval Addiction

The real problem of approval addiction is that it dis-empowers people one compliment at a time from their real self and real worth. Instead of serving people for the glory and approval that comes from God we transition to the need and approval of men.

Instead of finding our worth, security and meaning that comes from God we look to men to give us these things. The reason that approval addiction is so horrible is that it looks to other people or things to give us what only God can give us (significance, meaning, purpose and joy).

Woman with bibleThe horrifying part of people addiction is that it sets you up for substance abuse and here is how; instead of living out of a strong, indomitable core you live out of a weak “inner man” and people with such relational fragility look to other things (drugs, alcohol, sex, porn, substances) to fill up what is lacking within.

When you’re an approval addict you’ve outsourced your joy and weaken your immunity and raised proclivity to addiction.

Seeking God’s Approval

As I look back at the decade between 20 years old to 30 years old I can say that one of the greatest gifts I’ve received is the deliverance of people pleasing. Instead of living for the approval and glory of men I’ve been encouraged and delighted to live for the approval and glory of God.


Pastor Ryan Moffet family photoAbout the Author:

Ryan Moffat is the teaching pastor at Vast Church in Sisters, OR and is currently working on his Masters in Theology at Western Seminary in Portland, OR

Ryan received his BS in Bible and Theology and a minor in counseling from Multnomah University. He has pastored students, families and is passionate about Christ-centered recovery and healing. He’s been married to his beautiful wife Michelle for 13 years and they enjoy raising four crazy, unique and special kids together.



The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of addictions. These are not necessarily the views of Addiction Hope, but an effort to offer discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.

We at Addiction Hope understand that addictions result from a combination of environmental and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an addiction, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.

Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on March 23, 2017
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About Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC

Jacquelyn Ekern founded Addiction Hope in January, 2013, after experiencing years of inquiries for addiction help by visitors to our well regarded sister site, Eating Disorder Hope. Many of the eating disorder sufferers that contact Eating Disorder Hope also had a co-occurring issue of addiction to alcohol, drugs, and process addictions.