Is it Wrong to Brag?
“Almost no one likes a show-off, but almost everyone likes to show off at least a little.”
This quote from Psychology today demonstrates a bit of the tension we experience when making others aware of our accomplishments. We don’t want to hear someone go on and on about their achievements, but at the same time, we are excited to share some good news about what we have achieved. Whether it’s a task we’ve successfully tackled, an award we’ve won, or accolades we’ve received from mentors, we want others to notice our gains and wins!
Are Christians supposed to brag? Does that break the rules of the Christ-follower?
No. Yes. Maybe?
Several years ago, my son had a fantastic teacher who taught well and modelled great ethics. One of the rules of the classroom was that bragging was wrong. Like really wrong. So wrong that for years he considered brag to be one of the worst four-letter-words. No joke. We couldn’t say the word around him without causing emotional damage and literal tears streaming down his face. Fast forward a few years to a student-led conference where the students were directed to brag about themselves to their parents.
Oh boy, there were tears that day.
How do you help a 10-year-old child flip the script in their head so that they don’t think they’re condemned to a Christless eternity if they talk about their good grade on a book report?
I’m reasonably certain that the tension about sharing our moments of triumph are not limited to 10 year-olds. To talk about ourselves seems unchristian at best and icky at worst. We’re not supposed to crave the spotlight. And if we are recognized for doing something well, then we’re supposed to quietly murmur our thanks, deflect the compliment, and change the subject.
This past weekend we began a series called Sacred Selfie. Through this series we are looking at the implications for placing our identity in things that are temporal and fleeting. Things that reflect the selfie culture like conforming to worldly standards and comparing ourselves to others.
It’s this idea of comparison where we find the sticky-icky part about bragging.
Sometimes we speak about our accomplishments to elevate ourselves and devalue others instead of just expressing facts about what has occurred. We’re either trying to claw our way to the top of the mountain or we’re hoping that others will elevate us once they see or hear the amazing thing we have done.
And on the flip side, there are those who can never receive a compliment graciously and who relentlessly and painfully deflect gratitude to the point that it’s awkward for everyone around them! It’s a backward type of bragging if I insist on appearing so insignificant to the process, and I’d prefer to falsely elevate everyone around me and erase my involvement completely.
Neither one of these types of bragging – overvaluing yourself or undervaluing yourself – are helpful, honest or fair. So what’s the solution? Is it wrong to want recognition for a job well done or to not want the spotlight on you if things go well?
Like the message from Sunday said, we need to accept our true identity and reject any insecurities, as well as the need to puff ourselves up and make a name for ourselves.
If our identity is in Christ (and it is!) then we also should be honoured that the Saviour of the world has chosen to give us a combination of gifts, talents and interests so that we can take joy in serving with passion whether that means serving in the church, in our homes or community, or in the workplace. And if the intricate combination of God-given giftings has made a difference in someone else’s life, then it’s not sinful to talk about it.
As Christians, I think we do need to get better at talking about the wins in our lives, and to accept compliments about a job well-done. Not to the point that we’re seeking accolades or placing our identity in our accomplishments, but acknowledging that good things do happen. We sometimes have some great opportunities to work hard, use our training and education, and be a part of something that brings us joy!
One of the ways we can keep a healthy perspective is by asking ourselves, “What went well today, or in this situation, because of my involvement?” This question allows you to assess what went well, why it went well, and what elements of your giftings played a part. This question can help cure the person who constantly talks about their accomplishments as well as the person who stubbornly refuses to acknowledge that they had anything worthwhile to contribute.
You are not subject to a Christless eternity if you talk about your promotion at work, just as you’re not a terrible person for being excited about something big in your life. Knowing who you are in Christ means that you will have a healthy perspective about how God has worked in you to prepare you for the places He has called you to serve. So share your wins with excitement, and take the credit where credit is due. And all the while, maintain the core understanding that you were created by a God who loves you and who wants to work in and through you to lead others to Christ.
“Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 1:31)