Love restrains from pronouncing personal achievements. It doesn’t trumpet accomplishments. Rather love directs attention away from one’s self and focuses on edifying others.
Love is not envious (wanting what others have so bad they wish they didn’t have it) nor does it boast (trying to get others to want what you have). This is what the Bible means when it says, “…charity vaunteth not itself…” (I Corinthians 13:4).
Love is willing to identify with the most humble person and help them without any reciprocation or publicity. A braggart is image-conscious and won’t help unless there is a positive tradeoff for him. Someone said, “Most people know more about trading than giving”.
Let me give two examples of this. Several years ago my wife and I were out with a group of teenagers from our church. Sitting nearby us were two young ladies from our group and as they talked one of them noticed the cell phone of the other. She then proceeded to pull out her phone and began to compare it with that of her friend.
She touted the features her phone had and made fun of the “cheap phone” of the other girl. It was an intentional attempt to show how superior she was – at least in her own mind. I knew that the teenager with the nicer phone had parents that made much more money than the other girl.
I wanted to feel sorry for the snob, but I couldn’t help but thinking, “What a jerk!” I quickly pulled out my phone, which was also “cheap”, and put it on the table. An embarrassed silence followed and the subject changed. (As an aside, guess who had more friends in the youth group between the two?)
The braggart’s attempt to make someone feel insignificant was petty, but worse, unloving. Snobs have problems with relationships because they are not concerned with loving people, but with trying to impress them by communicating their (self-perceived) superiority to them. It’s certainly not wrong to have nice things, but when you begin to tout them you aren’t loving people, but trying to use them to make you feel important.
Another example. Once Paula and I were sitting at a large table of ten people having lunch. We didn’t know anyone and so the conversation was initially oriented around getting to know those beside of us. However, one man began to take over the conversation and once he started he literally never stopped.
He bragged about his accomplishments and it was evident that he wanted the rest of us to be impressed. If he asked a question it was to set up a response where he looked good by comparing or could “name drop”. Unfortunately, it took a while for the food to arrive and we all had to sit there and listen to the boor. This man was not insecure, he was arrogant and didn’t care for anyone at the table. He lacked love.
The longer he went on, the more I wanted to leave the table. Sadly, he was a pastor (and the majority of his talking oriented around his gifts and experiences as a spiritual leader) and the rest of us at the table were all believers and loved the Lord (it was at a Christian gathering). But it was difficult to love him because he sure didn’t love us.
Finally when we were able to escape his pontifications, I told Paula as we walked away, “I really feel sorry for his church, staff and his family that they have to put up with his vanity and need to be recognized and admired”. He didn’t love anyone at that table and it was evidenced by his disinterest in our lives. He loved himself and how he was perceived by people. Rather than being Christ-centered and others-oriented his mind was consumed with image management and his ego – even with people he had never met before.
Love doesn’t brag or try to make others feel insignificant. Love seeks to listen that it might meet the needs of others and encourage them. Love speaks in terms of the other person’s interests.
I was a very introverted child and teenager and still am more reserved than expressive. I felt deeply and loved deeply, but struggled to express my heart. When I was a teenager I read a book by Dale Carnegie, “How to Win Friends and Influence People”. It had a tremendous impact on my life and taught me how to have meaningful conversations and how to express care for people in practical ways.
I’m sure the principles in the book can be used to manipulate people to get your own way, but it didn’t have that impact on me. It taught me to focus on others and how to do that in concrete ways. The common theme of the book was on serving people and meeting their needs. Braggarts talk in terms of their own interests and are selfish with their words.
Have you ever seen the bumper sticker, “It it’s true, it ain’t bragging”. That’s just wrong. If you are talking a lot about yourself and your successes, it is bragging; it’s all about you, even if what you are saying is accurate.
At the heart of all of this toxic behavior is pride and self-centeredness. Boasting is just the symptom.
This is often seen in the fall during college football season. Some people are vicious toward other people that pull for different teams. When they win they can’t wait to get to work on Monday (or now they just paste it on Facebook in real time) and rub it in to friends that pulled for other teams.
When they lose, the excuses are many. There have been people in our church that have not attended services on Sunday because their team lost on Saturday – I’m supposing because they didn’t want to be razzed.
What joy is there gained from making your friends feel bad. I don’t enjoy it when people excessively tease me when my favorite teams lose. Sure, it’s supposedly done in fun, but a lot of what I see isn’t fun when people react in anger and begin to argue. Sportsmanship is for both winners and losers.
Hey, the announcers even give credence to it during the game (especially if it involves rivals) by saying, “Well, the old home team has bragging rights for the next 365 days”. When I hear that I think, “Really. Someone is going to go around and boast for a year about a game”. And the truth is, some do.
Yes, I do have teams that I follow closely and pull for them, but I don’t razz other people if my favorite teams win. And I appreciate it when they offer me the same courtesy.
What causes a person to be vicious toward the fan of another school? Many times it is because of a lack of love and a need to feel superior – even if it’s just measured by some lights on a scoreboard.
Before you write me off as a sore loser or an utterly non-competitive person, that isn’t true. I have coached various sports for over twenty years and always wanted to win, but never made fun of the other team or their fans. I used to tell our kids, “When you lose, say little, and when you win, say less”.
The Bible says, “Let another man praise thee, and not thine own mouth; a stranger, and not thine own lips”. (Proverbs 27:2) If you seek praise you will be disappointed and avoided by others, but if you learn to offer sincere praise to people you will be an encouragement and valued by others. Life for a believer is about pleasing the Lord, not being praised by others.
The Bible warns against talking too much.
“Even a fool, when he holdeth his peace, is counted wise: and he that shutteth his lips is esteemed a man of understanding”. (Proverbs 17:28)
“…a fool’s words is known by multitude of words”. (Ecclesiastes 5:3)
What keeps us from not being quiet when we ought? It is a lack of love. When your heart has been conquered by the love of Christ and is filled with the Spirit of God you won’t have to offer an opinion on all that you know or try to make others feel small by your accomplishments. This is not natural to any of us; it is supernatural. Only God can help us to live and love this way.
“Charity vaunteth not itself…” (I Corinthians 13:4)