Why do we think popularity will make us happy?
My guess is because we feel like there's a hole in our hearts that can only be filled by human approval and affirmation. But just a little bit of trusted, local affirmation won't fill it. No, we want more. We want expansive, extensive, overwhelming, constant, consistent approval. We want to be liked by everyone.
We think popularity will make us feel whole, true, and beautiful.
So we say things and do things and post things to gently and quietly manipulate the system to draw people to ourselves. We tag and filter and retweet and text and dm for our acceptance. And we color ourselves different shades to fit in with whatever space we're occupying, whether in person or online.
An Anglican bishop from the 19th century has some words for us. They won't make you feel good.
“Better to confess Christ 1000 times now and be despised by men, than be disowned by Christ before God on the day of Judgment.” — J.C. Ryle
Popularity is vastly overrated.
We chase it like a secret treasure when it's really the last thing that will reward us with delight and contentment. The truest treasure is Christ. Popularity is a mirage in a desert. It looks perfect, but when you reach it, you realize you sacrificed everything for nothing.
"There’s no shame / In looking like a fool / When I give You what I can’t keep / To take a hold of You." — United Pursuit
Popularity won't save us. It won't rescue us from condemnation. The popular do not inherit the earth. The persecuted do (Matt. 5:10). The poor in spirit do (Matt. 5:3). The merciful, meek, mourners, pure, peacemakers, righteousness-seekers, and reviled do (Matt. 5:4-11). The unpopular do.
Better to be denied by your peers than denied by Christ. The cost is worth it. Popularity for the price of your soul is not.
The next time you're tempted to posture, post, shift, lean, reword, stay silent, sugarcoat, tiptoe, lie, exaggerate, mock, or manipulate to win favor, approval, or popularity, think of Jesus and judgment. Think of a narrow road and an eternal paradise. Think of a cross and an empty tomb. Think of your identity and remember that people won't give you the satisfaction and completeness that you relentlessly crave. Jesus will.