“And whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
Lately—and I’m ashamed to admit this—I’ve been struggling jealousy. It’s hard for me to appreciate someone else’s beauty or talent instead of wishing I could have it all to myself. Something that brought this to my attention was shopping in Target.
The walls are plastered in images of men with high cheekbones and women with slim, toned tummies. For a while, I’ve had this inner desire to be a model. It’s not a dream exactly—nothing can ever replace my writing—but it’s just something I’ve wished for. If I were a model, then that would mean I match up to the ideal physical standards. It would be a public declaration that I’m beautiful. I knew it was ridiculous to be jealous of a poster; those pictures were engineered to make their subject gorgeous. But I was.
This instance and others made me realize what a glory hog I am, so while this post is supposed to help you, it’s just as much for me as it is for anyone.
Before we really delve into this, we need to know why we’re like this. Demons play a factor in tempting us, but there’s another factor I’ve yet to mention: our flesh. I love how Hannah Duggan says it in her teen girls’ bible study, Dare Greatly:
“The acclaimed child prodigy, the star of every show
The center of attention, don’t deny it, ‘cause I know
How your heart burned for glory, how your only goal was fame.
And when you left this sallow earth, they all would know your name.”
When I was younger, I remember either bragging about how good something was or “bragging” about how bad I had it. They both had the same purpose: to call attention to me. Low self-esteem is just as bad as arrogance, because at the center of it is us. We’re thinking about ourselves, comparing ourselves to others, seeing how we match up. Like a camera, we can only focus on one thing at a time. When we obsess over whether or not we’re good enough, the focus is: us.
“True humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less.”
I’ve always been considered smart, and frankly, it’s taken me a while to not flaunt my education or intelligence. I thought this problem was confined to my younger years, but at a recent speech and debate tournament, I learned otherwise.
I got second place in my speech category, and I wasn’t shocked. I’d worked hard for the past few weeks. For some reason, they hadn’t ordered enough trophies, and my trophy was the only one they’d forgotten to order. I was slightly angry, until I realized that it wasn’t my trophy in the first place—it was God’s. But even after the awards ceremony was over, I could hear my inner beast snarling. I done a great—no—an amazing job. This was only my second tournament, and I was already qualified for Nationals. I felt like I should’ve gotten way more attention than I received. I was a bit taken aback from my own response. Where had all this pride come from?
But I’d seen glimpses of it before. I try to be the nicest person I know. Sometimes, I actually try to out-nice people. It frustrates me when someone’s personality just… sparkles. Some people just ooze niceness. It’s occurred to me several times how ridiculous it is to out-nice someone or be jealous of their niceness, but… I want to outshine others. I want glory for myself. I crave it.
“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.”
Then I realized that it all comes from the same source—God. We’re told to think on what ever it lovely and admirable, because God is the Creator of those things. The model in Target got her beauty from the same source I got my beauty. For some reason, God made her like He did for a reason, and He made me like He did for a reason. I may not know why in this lifetime, but I can have faith in his plan. It’s not a matter of me versus someone else. We’re all children of the same Creator, each of us with specialized gifts and talents, each of us created like we were for a purpose.
A girl at my driver’s education class asked to see my grade for the learner’s permit test. When I showed her I’d scored perfectly on everything, a smile brightened her face.
“Wow! You did so good!”
I was surprised by her genuine happiness. I don’t expect others to truly celebrate my successes, but it’s always refreshing when they do. I can’t help but admire those who celebrate someone else’s success. That’s my goal. I want to get to the point where I can tear my gaze away from the mirror—from myself—so I can genuinely be happy for others.
At a leadership camp, I had my bloodied hands curled in my lap, my knuckles torn and raw. I was quite proud of the battle wounds I’d received from gaga ball.
The guy sitting next to me caught a glimpse of my knuckles. “Wow. Did you win any games?”
A nodded a bit.
He remarked on how humble I was about my wins. I wasn’t really being humble, but I knew that if I started bragging and elaborating, it would takeaway from the impressiveness of my gaga ball skills 😉 So I let my knuckles do the bragging for me.
The bible doesn’t say we’re going to be quiet, little things in the corner, never receiving any attention or glory. We’re told to shine, to be lights so bright we can’t be hidden.
“And he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
The second part of the verse doesn’t say that the humble will remain humble, but that they’ll be exalted. God Himself will exalt us if we don’t. And just as my knuckles said more than my own bragging could, God will exalt us better than we could ever exalt ourselves, so let God brag for you. And when you receive glory, give it back to Him. In fact, we were never meant to have so much glory for ourselves (which Elizabeth Gilbert explains perfectly in her TED Talk, Your Elusive Creative Genius).
People think they shine brightest when they’re the star. In reality, they shine brightest when God shines for them.