I love watching sports. Gymnastics, swimming, diving, skating, soccer, volleyball, skiing. You name it; I have probably watched it. Hey, during the winter Olympics I even watch curling.
When I was a kid I would watch ABC’s Wide World of Sports most Saturday afternoons. After all these years I can still hear Jim McKay saying, “The thrill of victory and the agony of defeat” and see the skier flipping wildly down the slope completely out of control.
Yep, I am an enthusiastic spectator. In my younger years I was a cheerleader which maybe explains my shouts of encouragement to athletes who are so far away on the field they look like ants.
I have always been a sucker for humility in the sports world. I love the MVP who deflects glory and points out the accomplishments of his teammates. It is just so right to acknowledge that personal success should be attributed, at least in part, to teammates, coaches, and family support. Some people even recognize they play well because of an ability given by God.
I guess it’s because I appreciate humility so much that I notice when athletes are cocky. There is nothing more cringe-worthy than the person who does the end-zone dance; the “I’m all that” strut; the chest thumping; the one who actually says to reporters, “I’m the best.” Seriously? Get over yourself.
And it isn’t limited to sports figures. Any political campaign is overflowing with candidates boasting of their seemingly supernatural ability to do the job that awaits. Just once I would love to hear a candidate admit their opponent is actually just as capable as they are of doing the job, and tell us the bald truth “I just really, really want this job.”
The Academy Awards is a night devoted to self-acclamation. It is three hours of celebrities patting themselves on the back. Evidently the adulation of fans is not enough to assure them of their talent, so once a year they flock together to heap praise on one another. (Just wondering… does this sound matter-of-fact or simply whiny?)
And now I arrive at the saddest part of this little essay: this attitude of self-promotion is seen even in followers of Jesus. His followers have been taught to think more highly of others than they do of themselves, but the lesson doesn’t sink in very deep.
A Christian might be thinking, “Well, I certainly don’t brag about myself“, but I think it’s more subtle than that. Ask yourself, Do I tend to think that my way is the best way to do something? Do I push to make that happen? Am I quietly critical of how other people fulfill their roles? Do I have a secret desire to promote myself? It looks different from the chest thumping athlete, but the underlying sentiment is the same: I am worthy.
Pride. It’s something that is hard to see in ourselves and easy to see in others. Above all other vices it is singularly unattractive. King Solomon must have run across a few braggarts in his day because he saw the need to include this bit of advice in his writings:
Let another praise you, and not your own mouth; someone else, and not your own lips. Proverbs 27:1
When the followers of Jesus get this figured out, maybe we can pass the lesson on to the rest of the world.