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I am addicted to praise.
Not praising God. Receiving praise. I’m addicted to it. And like any addict there is very little I would not do to get it. Give me a compliment; shower me with adulation; wax poetic about how awesome I am – I’ll do anything!
No seriously, tell me how awesome I am.
But even if you did tell me how awesome I am, I would wake up tomorrow needing more. I am addicted to praise.
It’s alarming to me how deeply this is ingrained in my psyche.
It’s alarming to me how my heart swells when I receive praise – as if it wasn’t very full to begin with. And it’s alarming to me how quickly I deflate again.
It’s alarming to me how my happiness on a Sunday morning can be more dependent on whether or not the worship service reflected well on me – as a worship leader, as a musician, as a songwriter – than whether or not the service brought glory to God.
But I’m guessing I’m not alone in my addiction. In fact, I know I’m not. Pride is the human condition. It is the root of all kinds of sin (Prov 21:4, 1 John 2:16). Think back to your worst moments, your worst decisions, the worst things to come out of your mouth. I’m guessing that pride was at the root of them all.
And you’re in good company! From Adam and Eve – who wanted to “be like God” (Gen 3:5), to Cain and Abel (Gen 4:5), to Saul and David (1 Sam 18:6-8), to the disciples who wondered aloud who would sit to the right and left of Jesus’ throne (Mark 10:35-37), the biblical account is full of havoc-wreaking pride.
Maybe that’s why Jesus spent so much time trying to teach us to be humble. He kicked things off by talking about the “poor in spirit” and the “meek” (Matt 5:3-5) and just wouldn’t let up! He was constantly clamping down the lid on his fame (Matt 16:20, Mark 9:9), letting children get a piece of his time (Mark 10:14), and talking nonsense about being great by becoming a servant (Mark 10:43-45), not to mention associating with sinners (Mark 2:16-17) and undesirables (John 4:7-9), defending the powerless (John 8:2-11), washing people’s feet (John 13:12-14), and suffering accusations in silence (Matt 27:12-14).
Philippians 2:6-8 sums things up for us nicely. Jesus, although he was “in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death – even death on a cross!”
I have to be honest; this whole humility kick that Jesus is on does not mesh well with my praise addiction.
In fact, of all the virtues, I think humility may be the least practiced, hardest to develop, and most essential to a life of Christian character. After all, it’s hard to recognize a Christ-follower that doesn’t look much like Christ.
So how do we develop and practice humility? Here are two simple ideas.
First, start praying that God would ruthlessly expose your own vanity and pride. (Warning: this might be VERY scary!)
Second, in the myriad of circumstances that make up your everyday life, start making humble choices. (You’ll know what the humble choice is because it will probably be EXACTLY what you’d rather not do.)
And if you’re a praise addict like me, start weaning yourself off of such a joy-stealing drug and get yourself hooked on God’s incredible love for you. (Incidentally, it’s free, and always in great supply.)
It might be the hardest thing you’ll ever do, and it’s a struggle you’ll never escape. But I promise it will bring you the one thing that praise, vanity, and pride never can: joy!
(Oh, and one more thing. Could you leave a comment about how much you enjoyed this blog post? Just one little tiny comment. Just a quick hit of praise. It’ll be okay, I promise. I can quit anytime I want.)
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