Friday, April 27, 2018

The commonest and least common things I hear when listening

Photo by Alex Holyoake on Unsplash
I was at a Christian men’s gathering some time ago, when something happened that happens in my life regularly. An old acquaintance, who is now a mentor to the young and a ministry leader, sidled up to me and did what I always recall him doing; he bragged and boasted and buffooned — all to ‘the glory of God.’
To be sure, nothing about him this day was anything about the glory of God, quite the opposite. How lucky was God that He had such a diligent and gifted servant doing His bidding for Him! Seriously.
And yet this is common place in our age.
Christians telling others how wonderful they are.
We aren’t too wonderful if Jesus needed to die
to save our sorry souls.
I’m a listener. I’d prefer to be the talker (for my own selfish and prideful reasons) but at social occasions it’s as if I have a sticker affixed to my forehead that everyone can read — ‘see this guy: he will listen to you, ad nauseam.’ Some people take a sickening glee in expounding their special worth and deeds so that I can marvel. Perhaps if you’re a listener you can relate — maybe you’ve noticed the same thing. My weakness: I’m much too nice most of the time to challenge them and confront the ugliness of their attitude. (This is something I’m praying on changing.)
Unfortunately, as a listener, I hear those who should know better do what never brings glory to anyone, least of all themselves or God. They enter the buffoonery of bragging and boasting. (Don’t worry, I engage in it too, but fortunately that talk is limited mostly to discussions I have with my wife — poor her!)
Let the words of the prophet Jeremiah ring out:
Thus says the Lord: Do not let the wise boast in their wisdom, do not let the mighty boast in their might, do not let the wealthy boast in their wealth; but let those who boast boast in this, that they understand and know me, that I am the Lord; I act with steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth, for in these things I delight, says the Lord. (Chapter 9:23-24)
I’ve usually found the person who boasts most takes least responsibility for their mistaken actions — when they’re not being awesome they’re incredibly withdrawn.
The commonest thing I hear when listening is how wonderful the person before me is — singing their own praises. The least common thing I hear, however, is the wonderful person before me singing someone else’s praises.
The best sign that we follow Jesus is that we herald Him and not ourselves. A good sign we’re followers of Christ is that we praise others and not ourselves.
The test of our faith in Jesus in our narcissistic day is how much we talk others up and any of the talk about ourselves down.
Christian: stop boasting of your good deeds and great character. Let others do that, and if our hearts are right, that praise will tempt us to cringe.

DISCLAIMER: more people will read this than I have personal contact with. I want to reassure anyone I do ministry with as mentor, pastor, coach, counsellor or chaplain that this is not about you. I’m not thinking or speaking about YOU. It’s a comment of concern in the context of the general social environment.

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