We know all that should matter is what our Maker says to us about who we are—more specifically, who we are in Christ Jesus.
We know this. And yet…
I got a phone call yesterday morning from an old friend. He complimented me on something I had done for him as a favor. It was behind-the-scenes work, not extensive by any stretch of the imagination. It was, however, work that I took pride in. It wasn’t “ministry” work, or pastoral or priestly. Nonetheless, it was something I think I have a bit of aptitude in doing.1
Later in the day, I thought about what he’d said. It was nice to be appreciated. It was nice for somebody to notice the small thing wasn’t just done but done well. It was really nice to hear this old friend who I look up to greatly express that appreciation. If I’m being completely honest, I was beaming a little bit inside—a combination of receiving encouragement while emotionally drained, the affirmation that somebody else agreed with my estimation of the work, and my great admiration of this man. I even looked forward to telling Elise what he’d said.
But as I prayed through Morning Prayer this morning, I was convicted. Looking back over the readings now, they don’t speak particularly loudly to this issue, so I can only say that it was the Holy Spirit. It can be easy to set aside others’ opinions of ourselves others when they disagree with our own.2 But if we’re not careful, we run the risk of putting too much value on those opinions when they agree.
When we have a poor understanding of ourselves, we may find ourselves agreeing with what the bully says. But if we have too high an opinion of ourselves, we can find ourselves delighting in—well, ourselves. Of course, it’s no good to dismiss the praises of others entirely. And I seem to find it easier to redirect the glory heavenward when I’m praised for something more directly related to my priestly ministry. But clearly, I have a blind spot.
We can make excuses (“I used to work for a certain kind of person, and…”). Or, we can suffer the sting of that conviction. I’m sorry, Lord. I’m sorry, Jesus, that I valued his opinion so highly. I’m sorry for being proud of a gift that you gave me in the first place. This way is less fun; I can only hope that by being open to the correction of the Holy Spirit, he will shrink that blind spot a tad.3
We all have blind spots. The danger in this one for me is that I can find myself seeking the approval of others—especially those whom I admire—instead of the One who has actually called me into ministry. By all means, continue to encourage your pastors and others around you. But if you are close to men and women who lead in the church—help them pay attention to their blind spots.