Practically, bringing glory to God has to happen in the heart first.
Receiving praise can be a two-edged sword. On the one hand, you may be going through a rough patch and you need some words to lift up your spirit, which is good. On the other hand, you may already be fairly proud of some of your recent accomplishments, and any praise you receive just boasts your already over-inflated ego, which is not so great!
But, how does receiving praise relate to your worth as a human being, i.e. a child of God?
Well, your identity as a human made on the image and likeness of God will not change whether people praise you or not and whether you feel less (low self-esteem) or more (vainglory and pride) than others. You identity is rooted in God’s love towards you, as I mention in my About the Blog page. To me, one of the most fascinating traits of God is that He is constant; He never changes since He is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. This means that His love towards us is also constant. And, we can extract our identity from this love; we are His creation, His children, His sheep, His beloved, etc. So, who we are to God never changes.
Within this idea in mind, when you receive praise, sometimes the enemy uses this against you in a few ways…
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For instance, as a Christian, it is nice sometimes to hear others talk about how self-sacrificial we are. Sure, that’s nice, but it doesn’t build you up spiritually especially if you are not aware of the trap enclosed within this form of flattery. You may begin to wonder, “If I am such a self-sacrificing person – a good Christian that is-, why aren’t I happier? Why don’t I have more as a form of rewards? Why am I still this…or that?” If the thoughts take a hold of you, you may begin to question whether God Himself sees how good of a person you are and how much you are missing in this life that He needs to give to you. Feelings of entitlement may be introduced into your thoughts and attitudes. Alternatively, it maybe good to remember that your worth and your image in the eyes of God are already perfect and He provides for you all the things for which you can be responsible and accountable. He wouldn’t want to give you more than you can handle of gifts and responsibilities, because, honestly, that wouldn’t be fair. God is fair.
You identity is rooted in God’s love towards you…
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Another example is that your ego may become over-inflated as a result of praise and you begin to act as though you have got everything figured out in life. An evil thought begins to form in the mind that maybe you don’t even need God, since you’re doing pretty good on your own here. Hey! I gots this! Well…you don’t gots this! God said that without Him, we can do nothing. So, if someone is praising you for something that you know you cannot and will never be able to do on your own, which is everything you do, bring the attention back to God. Jesus also said that when people see our good works, they are meant to glorify God and not us! (Matthew 6). We are not meant to be the center of attention of any good work, but rather God needs to be the center of attention. Any good work that we do, doesn’t indicate anything about us except that we have been given a talent that we need to treasure and nourish with God’s help. It doesn’t mean that we boast of its success as our own; that would be cheating and plagiarism!
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Weirdly enough, praise may bring you down even more. If you don’t believe that you are precious in God’s eye, you may think that anyone who praises a good work that you do or a good trait that you possess is simply a liar. You may wonder why they are even trying to kiss up to you, when the reality is that sometimes people just want to be encouraging. However, regardless of people’s intentions, you may find yourself brought down more possibly because you wanted more praise. Or, one person praised you and another ridiculed you and that was just very confusing! It is more likely that you will end up focusing on the ridicule and not the praise, brushing it off. This is why bringing any and all attention back onto God is important, because it can help you align your will with God. You can ask yourself, “What would be the point of anyone praising my deeds, traits, or talents?” If you say, “For the glorification of my Father who is in Heaven,” then you got it right! That’s it, simple enough! Whatever the intention of your admirers, you won’t be concerned because that’s between them and God, and God works in ALL of His children! Maybe He is working through you today, and maybe through another tomorrow. Humility dictates that Jesus Christ is the focus and not us.
Practically, bringing glory to God has to happen in the heart first. You don’t need to verbalize that God is the one who gave you a certain gift or talent for which others praise you, but you need to have conviction in your heart that whatever you do is not from you but from God. Your humility is not truthful until you stand in front of God in prayer and thank Him for all that He has allowed you to do in His Name today. Attempting to be humble in the eyes of others is a useless activity, because no one benefits and you end up believing that you have achieved the virtue of humility. Isn’t it more wonderful to know that you are made beautifully because God made you and loves you? Then, you stand in awe of the gifts that God bestows on you, thanking Him for allowing you to bring glory to His Name today.
We are not meant to be the center of attention of any good work, but rather God needs to be the center of attention.
One of the most admirable trait about many of the Orthodox Church Fathers and the saints is that they never cared about bringing glory to themselves. Many of them accepted even ridicule from people in order to bring glory to the Name of Jesus. They knew who they were to God and they knew who God was to them, and that was sufficient, regardless of what others might say about them.
I pray that you are able to have peace about who you are to God whether people praise you or not. God cherishes all your faithful attempts to please Him and that counts in His eyes more than any praise people direct towards you. You are an ambassador for Christ on earth and you have a mission that requires focus, joy, and love!
Peace to all.