30-Day Writing Challenge
Day 8: Share something you struggle with
A friend asked me this summer over lunch, “Is it hard for you when people praise you?”
Is it hard for me?
Oh, friend. You have no idea how hard it is for me.
As a little girl, I was so eager to please others. Too eager, in fact. Most of the time, I “did the right thing” so that others would be happy and so that they would compliment me. Knowing the most Bible verses, winning at AWANA Bible quizzes, always knowing the right answer in Sunday School? I thrived on this, because it fed my selfish pride, and I loved it when people looked admiringly my way.
Into my teen years, I began to be made more aware of my pride and knew that it was a sin to desire the praise of others. But that still didn’t curb my motivations, and I struggled with wanting to pursue God because it was good and He desired me to be in relationship with Him, and wanting to pursue Him so that others would perceive me as “holy” – as the “good girl.”
Around age 18, I went through some life-altering events and at the same time read The Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning. These two things completely opened my eyes to the filthiness of my soul apart from God, and made me aware of how desperately I needed grace (despite the fact that I had “known” that for years). The refining process in the following years was a work of being humbled and learning to love God apart from anyone else’s notice and approval.
But this lifelong battle still makes it difficult for me to receive praise.
I’m a words girl (in case you hadn’t noticed). Words mean everything to me – especially words of affirmation. Encouragement from others (even if it’s the same “You’re the best teacher ever!” that I’ve heard from many small children that seems cliché) instantly warms my heart and makes me glow.
And it can also instantly clang a warning bell in my mind – watch out! Beware! Pride train quickly approaching!
As much as I crave words of affirmation, I also dread them because I know how they will act as a blowtorch to my heart, undoing in an instant my focus on God and who I am in relation to Him. Some words linger in my mind and heart and, if I’m not careful, will lodge there and start making me value myself more than I should.
Pretty soon I’m elevating myself instead of turning that praise into thanksgiving to God. I begin to love myself too much, and any good thing someone has said about me will be negated by the fact that I’m now turning into the opposite of what they said.
I have despaired over this battle many times – and have almost wished violently that nobody would ever praise me again (especially publically). But that clearly is not the problem – the problem is my sinful heart – and I have to go to the root of why I allow praise to become an idol in my life.
I let praise become an idol in my life because I’m not having a right view of who I am in relation to who God is. In reality, God is omnipotent, almighty Creator, and I am but a mere creation. I am a speck in comparison to the grand mountain of God’s splendor. Whatever good that I may say or do is because God has granted that gift to me – it is His work on my sinful, selfish heart, and I can’t take credit for producing any righteousness on my own.
When I have that view of myself, I can then graciously accept the praise of others – not for myself, but for the Creator, because the praise belongs to Him. He works through me, and if my life offers anything of value to another, it is because of Christ and Christ alone.
So when compliments and praise come my way, I must not let them linger in my mind and savor them as tasty morsels. I can be grateful for them and encouraged by them – but then I must lay them on the altar as material for sacrifice. A sacrifice of praise to the only One who truly deserves all of our praise.
Not only is He gracious to give us gifts to give away to others, but He is also gracious to refine our hearts – reveal our sin, allow us to struggle through it, and in the struggle, draw us closer to Him.
He knows I’ll still stumble in this area. But by His grace, may it be less and less as I learn to love Him more than I love myself. His worth on display is so much more beautiful than my worth on display.
30-Day Writing Challenge