After our RS lesson on Sunday I got to thinking about being accepted and being loved. One of the main differences I see between being accepted and being loved is that acceptance is often a fleeting thing. People will do many things to be accepted by their peers. And many of those things are ones that they wouldn't normally do. Or that they're doing just so that other people will notice, or so that they won't stand out as being different.
But to be loved is to be able to be yourself. You don't have to change what you look like or who you are. The need to impress and be accepted is done away with.
Being loved is the ultimate goal of being accepted. It goes beyond doing things that others think you should do, or going along with the crowd so that you don't stand out. Being loved allows you to think less of yourself and your standing amongst peers and more about others and how you can share God's love with them.
You're not likely to find true acceptance and love amongst those who judge you by what you wear, how much money you make, or what your religious beliefs are.
It's taken me a long time to understand that knowing and feeling God's love makes it less likely that you'll feel the need to go along with others just for the sake of fitting in. God's love helps you to quit worrying about what other people think about you. The more that I am able to incorporate God's love into my life, the more I am able to worry more about what He thinks is cool, more about what He thinks is important, and more about others' needs instead of my own. What God thinks matters. What everyone else thinks is just opinion. (And in our culture that opinion is very aggressively manipulated through marketing.)
Our culture tends to be very egotistical and self-centered. Everything is made to be about self. If it's not worrying about your body shape or weight then it's how gray your hair is, or how long your eyelashes are or whether you wear the right brands of clothes. All of these are things that take our focus off of doing for others and puts it on ourselves. And I don't think that's what God wants. I can't see Jesus worrying about whether his nails looked nice, or whether his beard had some gray hairs. (!) I don't think He made sure to have the latest style robes or spent His money to buy jewels to adorn Himself. Can you see Jesus thinking that it's better to use our resources to try to impress others than to help lift those in need?
I'm not saying that there's no place for makeup, clothing, etc. in our lives. I think we need to be clean, presentable, and well-groomed. I'm just saying that the amount of time and money that our society puts into these things can keep us from doing much good in this world. If we take a look at what we spend our time and money on- is it the right things? Are we looking for worldly acceptance, or are we looking for God's love?