To the Impostor, Approval Suck, and Chameleon in Us All


People are like chameleons. We’re exceptionally good at hiding.

Why do we hide? Because rejection is simply too painful to bear. The chameleon in us—or what Brennan Manning has called the Imposter—is represented by multiple “colors” or masks that we use to hide ourselves and fit in. Most of us have a work self, an at-home self, an internet self, a party self, a church self, a bedroom self, and several other selves we depend on to keep us safe from exposure and attack.

Having so many pseudo-selves leads us to become dis-integrated people versus people who are integrated and whole. In all our changing of colors to blend in, we become living pictures of what Groucho Marx supposedly said: “Those are my principles. And if you don’t like them…well, I have others.”

We want to be liked, so we seek to do whatever we think that requires. Living to be liked seems like a safe way to live.

It’s what pastor Jack Miller used to call being an “approval suck.”

I’ll admit it. I am an approval suck who really likes to be liked. I am a human chameleon who wants to feel safe in social settings, when being observed for this or that, and in every other situation. And so are you.

But how is the inner chameleon working out for us? Is it giving us firmer footing with more friends and deeper community? Or is it leaving us lonelier, more misunderstood, more ashamed, and more afraid? These outcomes may still feel acceptable for us because of what C.S. Lewis said about the risks associated with love:

“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable…The only place outside Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is Hell.”

In an ideal world, the truths of the gospel will move us past the transparency hurdle, thus freeing us to shed our chameleon skin. Because our sins have been forgiven–and our chameleon hides protected–we truly have nothing left to hide. If God is for us, who can be against us? Because God has declared us to be blameless in his sight through the finished work of Jesus, we truly have nothing left to prove. With us, our Father is well pleased! Because God loves us dearly and nothing can ever separate us from his love, we truly have nothing to fear. We are his treasure! We are our Beloved’s, and our Beloved is ours!

Even still, one remaining roadblock prevents us from entering into these realities and becoming free: We are chronic amnesiacs. Almost as quickly as we hear the good news that in Christ we have nothing left to hide, to prove, or to fear…we forget it. Punctured by our own fallen condition, the good news of Jesus leaks out of us constantly.

In a moment of transparency, Mariah Carey, one of the most successful artists in the history of pop music, said in an interview that if she hears a thousand words of praise and one word of criticism, that one criticism will eliminate the thousand praises in her mind.

Can you identify with this dilemma? I certainly can.

The praises and positives slip through our fingers like Jell-O. The shaming and criticisms, on the other hand, stick to us like Velcro and can feel impossible to shake off, no matter how hard we try. The serpent that tempted Adam and Eve, also known as the “accuser of the brethren” or Satan (Revelation 12:10), is the same deceiver to us—whispering constantly in our ears, “Has God really said…” (Genesis 3:1)?

Has God really said you are forgiven, blameless in his sight, and forever loved? Surely not! We both know that you are guilty, shameful, and worthless!

The serpent hisses these lies to our hearts constantly. This is why nineteenth century minister, Robert Murray McCheyne, said that for every one look we take at ourselves, we should take ten looks at Christ. Similarly, Martin Luther said that we need to hear the gospel every day because we forget it every day. These are simple ways of saying that most of us have the volume turned up on the serpent’s voice of accusation and bondage and turned down on the Father’s voice of pardon and freedom.

We must surrender to Jesus’ interest in reversing this for us.

“Forgiven, blameless, loved…all through Christ.” Volume UP.

“Shameful, worthless, a useless burden.” Volume DOWN.

One way to turn up the Father’s voice is to practice what Scripture calls “speaking the truth in love”(Ephesians 4:15) with each other. We must, as Ann Voskamp says, “Only speak words that make souls stronger.” As the beloved, blood-bought daughters and sons of God, we must use our words to call out the best in each other versus punishing each other for the worst. To speak the truth in love is to offer encouragement—to put courage in to a soul. One of our primary resources for this is carefully chosen, life-giving words that God has already declared over us all.

Only then will we dare to come out from hiding and rest in knowing we have nothing left to hide, nothing left to prove, and nothing left to fear.

Chameleons no more.

Learn about Scott’s latest book, Beautiful People Don’t Just Happen

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6 responses to “To the Impostor, Approval Suck, and Chameleon in Us All”

  1. Ed White says:

    For several years as I have matured as an individual and most importantly in my Faith , I have said that the vast majority of people inadvertently place themselves in two primary aspects of life in what I have described as a ” self imposed prison cell ” for which the Lord does not desire for us to be stymied and , as in all things , clearly provides us the keys for our release . The first item is the aspect of one’s fear of death for which the Christian has that so special opportunity to embrace death in God’s time as in a unique way for the person dying to experience a time of even great celebration as one enters into the grandeur of Heaven for Eternity — He desires for us no fear but instead joyful anticipation . The second ” prison cell ” to which we all fall at certain times in our life is that ever present desire to be liked and accepted just as you , Scott , so aptly described . For most , including myself , those teen age years of desires to be in the ” cool group ” can be ever so painful when excluded .
    Then college years and the beginning of your professional career , one falls into the pit of overwhelming desire to be in the right fraternity or sorority for some ; then the ” right ” job to be viewed as successful as you focus too intently as ones top priority upon job position and financial movement as compared to peers . With these fleshly desires and pursuits , one NEVER reaches that point of true satisfaction , much less peace and joy . Then even in adult years with work performance and parenting your children and their achievements , the comparisons and desires to be admired continue .
    For me , the day that I realized that Jesus held the key to be released from that sometimes overpowering desire to be liked and accepted was a day of ultimate liberty on this Earth . The words of Brennan Manning ; C.S. Lewis ; Robert McCheyne ; and especially Ann Voscamp — ” To speak the truth in love is to offer encouragement and to put courage into a soul ” are of such great importance as we face attacks upon the Christian faith and even certain absolute truths of Scripture . In my opinion , there has been no other time in the history of our country of greater attack and impending increasing attack on the truths of the Christian faith as the present and seen especially in various social issues . To speak without fleshly judgment in love with compassion and integrity of Biblical truths given to us by Jesus and our Holy Father and not personal opinion , is the key to be totally free of concern of acceptance from the world and desired social status . To be aligned with Jesus is the one status we Christians should pursue .
    Rest assured that if you are willing to be proactive in listening to God’s leading and step out on that plank , there will be REAL costs of the loss of ” being liked ” by many . But if spoken in love ,compassion , integrity , truth based upon Scripture without judgment , and genuine intent to point that person toward Jesus that is my desire without caring about the foolish risk of not being liked by someone . In fact , I would any day trade being respected by another person as opposed to being liked . Realizing that your years of life on Earth are declining each day , not listening to the Holy Spirit and accepting the challenge and blessing of standing and speaking for the love of the Lord is the real risk — one that I pray I will always accept as my top priority and in essence not concerning myself as to what the world and even friends think of me — again always prompted by the loving and compassionate truths of Jesus and Scripture — God Bless !!

  2. Molly Parks says:

    In 1985 one of my sons took his discharge from the military and came to stay with me in my apartment in the projects for a while as he prepared for civilian life. I had a visit from a woman who attended the same church as I, and where my son had grown up. She worked for the apartment complex in doing maintenance for those of us who were not physically able to wash our own windows on the outside (I was third floor) and to help out. I heard her talking to my son as I was cleaning the kitchen.

    She asked him, “Do you know what I like about your mother?” He said he didn’t so she said, “It is that whenever I see her she is the same, no matter what life is right then, she is never any different; I know who she is all the time, and I like that.”

    A large part of that about me is that when the Meniere’s Disease I have lived with for more than fifty years worsened and the symptoms manifested to where I had all four symptoms and it was no longer the Syndrome, it was the disease, the ENTs who were my doctors told me, “You will always have Meniere’s. It does not go away. It might give you a respite day once in a long while but it will not go away. We hope to help you realize that you don’t have to let it have YOU! I was 53 years old. It had taken 11 years to get the diagnosis of what I had been living with. Those words have been my touchstone ever since. God has walked me through every year, all of it, I am 84 years young and life has handed me more health issues but they cannot touch my joy in Whose I am.

    Thank you for Whose YOU are!

  3. Patsi Isley says:

    Well said wisdom!

  4. YorkMix says:

    She is a disappointment in many ways. Thought she was for blue collar, middle america, but she is just another chameleon. Glad the true Roseann is uncovered and I for one, will not further engage in watching her show and supporting her trumpism. Sad for the rest of the cast as they deserve better, I feel she let them all down. Bye bye Rosie.

  5. Carole Sparks says:

    Good word, as always. What’s the source for the C.S. Lewis quote? I’m not familiar with it, and I’d like to read the context. Thanks!

  6. greg rogers says:

    One of the best encouragements I have received in my life was by a pastor who said that we should treat our propensity for sin (as Christians) just like a community should their knowledge about a prowling lion who was secretly stalking its prey in the dark of night in that village.

    Look at the method of encouraging in Hebrews 3:12-14. the nature of the encouragement was not,”man Greg, you are really sooooo good.” If I am honest, that helps the lion to enter through the back door. Rather the nature of the encouragement was more like “Greg, you are saved by the blood of the lamb indeed. But this was accomplished for God’s glory and as a result of His love and for this Greg, you are free from thinking too much about your still sinful human self from now and through eternity.” Man is this goodnews to me! I no longer need to worry about me staying on any throne…I just need to be concerned that I represent God well which is pretty easy when my concern is not the joy killing variety of inclination towards the throne!

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