Most of us feel unappreciated at one time or another. Perhaps we work hard to meet the needs of others, and then we don’t receive a “thank you.” Or maybe we hope for a compliment for a job well done. When one isn’t forthcoming, we naturally feel frustrated. When the world doesn’t respond to us in the way that we would like, the question we need to ask ourselves is this: Who do I serve?

I love that question. Who do I serve? Who do you serve? Once we answer that question, life becomes abundantly simple. Who do I serve? I serve God. I forget that sometimes, and I get caught up in nonsense. I worry about whether I am being adequately appreciated. I concern myself with what others think of me. I wonder if I measure up to some vague standard set by society. Then I have to circle back, and ask myself the question again: Who do I serve? I probably will be asking myself that question for the rest of my life in order to keep getting myself back on track.

When we serve God, do we need the appreciation of others? Do we need their approval? Not really. Of course it is lovely when those we help express their appreciation. And it is great to receive positive feedback when we’ve worked hard on something. But the reality is that we live in a world which is stingy with praise and quick to judge. If we depend on the appreciation or approval of others, we will be frustrated. But if you choose to live a life in service to God, then the feedback of others isn’t relevant. Their responses aren’t the point.

The point is whether we are either doing what God asks of us or not. If we are being generous, kind, non-judgmental and patient, then we are doing well, regardless of what the world thinks of us. If we appreciate and encourage others, we are being a blessing on this earth. And if we are selfish, mean, lazy and irritable, then we aren’t doing so well.

The beauty of serving God is that once we make the decision to do so, the world loses its power over us. People cannot control us by their opinions, e.g. “If you do what I want, then I will like you (or love you).” When you serve God, you are liberated because whether others like you or not is neither here nor there.

Admittedly, it is nice to be liked and loved, but our job on this earth isn’t to win popularity contests. Our job is to use our gifts and talents to do God’s will. Some days that will make you very popular, if God calls you to meet the needs of others. However, some days you may be unpopular if you need to take a break and take care of yourself. And you may be very unpopular if you are called to take a stand against people around you who are mistreating others (or who are mistreating you).

In fact, if you truly want to serve God and act according to His standards, the world may respond poorly to you. You can give selflessly to others and be informed that what you do simply isn’t enough. You can be patient and kind, and others may try to take advantage of you. You can turn the other cheek, and you may be viewed as weak. We serve a God whose ways are the opposite of the world’s ways.

Do you know that there are people who actually have written about how awful they think Mother Teresa was? People have criticized Gandhi and Abraham Lincoln, as well. Clearly no one is immune from criticism and lack of appreciation. That is why we continually need to be mindful of who we serve.

So the next time someone doesn’t say thank you, or you are criticized unfairly, or your efforts go unappreciated, don’t be upset or offended.  Realize that you don’t need the world’s approval. Instead, ask yourself the only question that really matters: Who do I serve?

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