"For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ." (Galatians 1:10 ESV)
The Apostle Paul makes it clear that we can either seek the approval of man or the approval of God—we can’t have both. In fact, Paul states that if his goal was to gain the approval of man, he would depart from serving Christ. This is a challenging statement for us to consider.
If you’re like me, you want everyone to like you. I find disappointing people a tremendously difficult reality to deal with. I internally cringe when authority figures in my life express anything approximating disapproval. I feel nauseous when I find I have in any way failed or let down my peers. I want all people at all times to be at peace with me and, frankly, to think I’m awesome as well.
Naturally, this tendency in me can have some unhelpful influence on my counseling. If I need the approval of my client, then I will be reluctant to speak sharp truths that might be needed in the moment. If I can’t stand my client being disappointed, then I might settle for short-term, earthbound goals instead of considering what God has for them. If I need my client’s approval, my counsel will become more about me than what is best for them.
The only way I can be meaningfully helpful to my clients is by counseling in such a way that God is pleased. The greatest good I can give my clients is God’s wisdom and, Scripture is clear on this, sometimes hearing God’s wisdom hurts. This means I should not be surprised that from time to time my clients will be frustrated or disappointed with the counsel I offer (though in reality if I’m offering godly counsel, their disappointment has more to do with God than me). In such times, it's in remembering God’s loving approval along with my own history of resistance to God’s wisdom that I can compassionately endure my clients’ disappointment.