Sometimes, people say good things about me. I’m sure people say good things about you too. Isn’t it nice when people say good things about us? Doesn’t it make us feel good about ourselves? Well it does sometimes, anyways. Other times, doesn’t it make us feel shameful? I know this is part of my story. Why does someone saying good things about me make me feel shameful? Because I know myself. I know I’m not good. Maybe you’ve felt similarly?
For the longest time, when someone would give me a genuine compliment about something they saw me do or heard me say, I would say, “Thanks,” but immediately think, “If they knew about that one thing that I’ve done or do, there’s no way they would say good things about me.” We’ve probably all felt that way on some level before. I know as someone who works in a local church, sometimes I feel pressure to look like I’m loving and flourishing at the whole following Jesus thing, even when I know I’m not. This feeling of “if they only knew ‘x,’ they wouldn’t love me,” is called shame, and yeah, shame is not from God.
See, we all have issues. Each and every person on earth has that sin or sins that tempt us, that call out to us, and that we have given in to before. And yes, by the grace of God we have been set free from the bondage of sin! But if you’re like me, sometimes you might choose the temptation of the sin that is familiar over walking freely with God. And this happens, and no its not the right decision or action, but unfortunately, it happens.
But here’s the kicker, if I were perfect, I might start reading my own press clippings. I might start thinking that things are going well because I made good things happen. I may start thinking that when people compliment me, that they are doing as they should because I’m pretty awesome. And if we’re honest, there have been times where we’ve had this attitude as well.
“OK, Michael. Now I’m confused, because first you said that shame and thinking that we’re bad is not from God, and now you’re saying that we’re not supposed to think that we’re super amazing. So like, what are we supposed to think?”
That’s a fair question! So here’s the thing: Any compliments or praise that we receive for the way we live is a compliment or praise that belongs to God alone!
Let’s face it, God works through us, and we are FAR from perfect! I would go as far as to say that God exclusively works through imperfect people. It doesn’t take much time reading the Bible to see that He used people with some serious issues to advance the Kingdom of God on earth. God used Jacob, a cheater and liar, to be the forefather of His people. He used David, a scheming adulterer, to unite His people. And God used Saul of Tarsus, killer of Christians, to spread the good news all over the known world.
Here on earth, we are God’s instruments in the symphony of His Kingdom. When someone does something impressive with a violin, we don’t go up after the show and tell the violin that it did a great job. The good things that others see in us are merely a reflection of our Heavenly Father, who has given us great gifts. “Whatever is good and perfect is a gift coming down for us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens. He never changes or casts a shifting shadow.” (James 1:17)
God gives us words to say and things to do to reflect His glory on earth. So when we receive praise, let us pass that on to God who uses us in ways that we could never choose for ourselves. For God’s is the Kingdom, and the Power, and the Glory forever and ever, Amen.