“God, am I even supposed to be writing?”
I sat at the computer, resting my fingers against the A-L row on the keyboard.
It wasn’t discouragement that was creating the war in my mind. Several of my articles had just been published, my blog was doing well, people were saying nice things about my words.
I was doing it for praise, honor, recognition. My whole life I had struggled with this bane of seeking glory from other people.
At church potlucks I would pray for God to help me wipe off the table without wanting someone to notice me. As the ladies stirred the crockpots, I would watch their faces. Do they fight the desire for praise too?
I would shove Styrofoam plates into the trash, wondering: If I struggle with wrong motives, should I even be serving in the first place?
I knew what God said about praise.
I knew about the people who didn’t follow Christ because “they loved human praise more than praise from God” (John 12:43).
I knew about the Pharisees and their deeds: “So when you give to the poor, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be honored by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full” (Matthew 6:2).
The question is: How do I change? How do I respond when someone gives me praise? Here are three ways:
1. Put the praise where it belongs.
As a child, I read that the missionary Corrie Ten Boom used to get a lot of compliments for her work during the Holocaust. However, instead of internalizing those comments, she used to give them back to God in her prayers.
What would happen if we followed her example?
“God, my mom just told me that I was a blessing to her by doing the dishes … but I know that You are the one that enables me to serve.”
“God, my teacher just told me that I’m one of the smartest students she’s ever had … but I know that you are the One who constructed my mind. Show me how to use it for You.”
How fast would most of our desire for praise disappear with a single prayer that acknowledges Who our abilities come from?
2. Respond to praise with God-centered thinking.
In The Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis writes about how Christians deal with praise in ways that put the focus on them more than God or other people (70).
For example, if someone tells me “You are a good writer,” I could respond by applauding myself, over-criticizing myself, or not using my talent to its full ability. Now who are all those options about?
Instead, Lewis instructs Christians in how to deal with praise:
“[God] wants [man], in the end, to be so free from any bias in his own favour that he can rejoice in his own talents as frankly and gratefully as in his neighbor’s talents—or in a sunrise, an elephant, or a waterfall. … [God] will also try to render in the [man’s] mind … the doctrine that they did not create themselves, that their talents were given them, and that they might as well be proud of the colour of their hair” (71-72).
Rejecting praise with false humility is not the solution. Giving up our talents because of a desire for praise is not the solution.
The solution is recognizing the source of our talents—and thus the source that all praise should be directed to. The solution is asking ourselves: Who gave me these gifts? Why did God give them to me? And how do I use them for His glory?
The solution is taking those talents (and the accompanying praise) and thinking of them in light of the One who gave them to us.
3. Talk about the Giver of your gifts.
It’s been said that teaching is one of the best ways to learn a subject. Similarly, talking about the power behind our talents is one of the best ways to kill a desire for praise.
When someone acknowledges us, we have a chance to turn that attention to God or others. Sometimes praise can afford opportunities to witness, explain our beliefs, or lend a helping hand to someone else. This is good because the more we point to God, the less we point to ourselves.
Fighting a desire for praise from men—it’s not easy. It’s an intense struggle! It’s counter-cultural, contrary to human thinking, contrary to the beat of my own heart.
However, it is vital for true joy, worship, service, and rewards for eternity.
And you know what? We’re not in this alone.
“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (2 Corinthians 12:9).
Cited: Lewis, C.S. The Screwtape Letters. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1942. 70-72. Print.
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Thank you for writing this article! As this is something that I struggle with as well, I was really encouraged by your article and I enjoyed reading it! These are all great ways to help get our focus away from ourselves and back on the one who gave us anything we have that is worth any praise. I will definitely start putting these into practice, Thanks again!
I’m glad you were encouraged! Thanks for reading 🙂
I didn’t realize I struggle with this until I got about half way through the article. Thanks for writing this and opening my eyes to this being a problem!
I’m so glad other people can relate to this. Thanks for commenting! 🙂
Thank you God, I was needing this right now !
Hallelujah!!! Praise the Lord!! THANK YOU for writing this!! I struggle with the exact same thing and now i am rejoicing in the goodness of the Lord. Also, check out Robert Murray McCheyne’s book called “The Love of Christ.” Its super short and i found it for free on I-Books! It’s super encouraging:)
I’ll have to look into that! Thanks for sharing!
This is great! I especially like tip number 1. I can imagine that starting to do that would be incredibly helpful in battling feelings of pride. Thanks for this!
Thanks for reading 🙂
Thank you so much for writing, Brooke!! I struggle with this a lot, and it was definitely something I needed to hear.
I’m so glad God spoke to you through this. Thanks for commenting! 🙂
Thank you for writing, Brooke! Funny thing, I was reading 2 Corinthians just the other day, at the suggestion of a friend, and 2 Corinthians 12:9 really stuck out to me. This post was well timed in my life! Isn’t it cool how God does that? Thanks again 🙂
It’s a great verse! 🙂 Thanks for reading!
“If I struggle with wrong motives, should I even be serving in the first place?”
Thank-you so much for addressing this question, Brooke. It’s something I’ve often wondered about, but sometimes been afraid to ask. I found those three tips incredibly helpful – praise God – and useful for shedding an eternal light on all areas of life.
As a muso, I often have to deal with praise after performances, and it’s a bit challenging. It was actually just last night that I was wondering whether music performance is even a valid pursuit for a Christian, given the ungodly and often self-glorifying environment that permeates this area. This has really helped me see it as a form of outreach, putting praise where it belongs and thus bringing glory to God. Thanks very much.
It really is a hard question–it made me remember what my Mom told me before about how often our area of greatest giftedness is also our area of greatest struggle. I think there might be a reason for that…a spiritual reason related to depending on God. But I’m glad to hear other people have similar questions because it has always been a big one for me. Thanks for reading! 🙂
This is fantastic! And the encouraging thing is that the more you practice putting yourself into this state of mind (as in point #1), the more naturally doing that will come to you as you work at it!
Exactly! Even though I can’t change my heart, I can change how I respond to my sin and how I think about it. Thanks for commenting!
This is a wonderful article! Thank you so much. I’ve been struggling with this a ton lately, and was just talking to my dad about it the other day. I’m super involved at my church, and I know exactly what you’re talking about. Especially playing on worship team, it’s so hard to know how to deal with the pride issue! Thank you for writing this.
I definitely think that this is a big struggle among Christians. I was always afraid to talk about it because no one else “looked” like they were struggling with pride or praise. It’s funny the things we think before we know though! Thanks for reading! 🙂
I totally know what you mean about people not “looking” like they struggle with it. It’s one of those things that I imagine most Christians have to deal with, but don’t talk about much. Thanks for being willing to address it!
I know exactly how you feel man, I play on the youth band at my church too. And the compliments are hard to deal with. Im super glad I stumbled on this article!
Hey look, it’s my doppelganger who apparently also plays on the youth worship band.
What do you play, oh twin of me?
I play guitar and sing…
Ditto on guitar. Also mandolin, banjo and occasionally uke. Kinda crazy how many things we have in common.
This is really crazy! Do you, by any chance, record or create you own music?
I’m not very good, but yes, I do. I’ve only got a few originals, and I need to get better mixing software (I’ve just got Cubase LE Elements). But I write a lot of original songs that I never manage to record. I take it you do as well?
Why yes, yes I do, how on earth did you know? This is actually getting freaky, all this stuff we have in common!
This is really weird. Also, M is my middle initial (Michael), so I could technically change my username to Benjamin_M and then it would get really confusing.
Oh gosh, heaven forbid it! We could be like in the same conversations, but not at once so people would think theres only one. We’d be like clones…. But cooler…
Thank you for your article, it is something hard to deal with, and I had never read anything about it! It’s great God used you to do it 😉
It’s interesting that it’s so hard to deal with, but there really is not much information on how to deal with it. Thanks for reading! 🙂
This is definitely a huge issue for me, and often I end up just criticising. But the advice that you gave is great and it’s really good application.
Thank you sooo much for sharing this article! This is exactly what I’ve been struggling with and I had no idea that this was how to deal with it. I just tried putting the praise where it belongs, in a prayer, and I already feel more humble towards God (if that makes sense).
I have a questions for the last point though; how do we talk about God being the giver of our gifts without putting people off? Like how often do we tell people this? Knowing how much to say to someone about God is something I really struggle with…
I completely understand, Chloe! It’s something I really struggle with as well…the only solution I have so far is to pray that God would give me the words to say when I need to say them. He promises us that He will do this! (Luke 12:11-12)
Thank you for reading and commenting! 🙂
Wow, this is very helpful for me. When someone praises for my efforts, I usually would puff up with pride or I would blush. It is hard to stay humble when everyone keeps telling you are great. Thanks once again for the reminder! 🙂