We’ve created for ourselves an interesting culture. No one can take a compliment! Anytime we are complimented, we deny it, ignore it, or bury it as quickly as possible.
To be fair, if we don’t react in such a way–if we were to embrace the compliment–it often gets retracted. Me trying to be nice to my little sister: “Your artwork is well-done and quite pretty!”
Lil’ sister, very enthusiastically: “I know! Thanks!”
Me, a little appalled by her confidence: “Well, it’s nice, but it’s not like perfect and also your color choices could use some improvements.”
Americans embrace this oxymoronic balance of being an exceptionally prideful culture at heart, all the while despising (and socially reprimanding) anyone who displays any sense of pride…hence we’re very afraid to show personal pride and, often, to even feel it.
Growing up American, I share the fear of coming across as prideful–I too can’t accept a compliment. And if there is social pressure from our culture to avoid pride, it only gets worse amongst Christians.
I’m gonna say it: Christians are judgy. Arguably nearly all of our judgementalism is extremely inappropriate (which is another topic for another day). Anyway, the point I’m getting to is that both our culture and the church push us to constantly be thinking less of ourselves. Sometimes it feels that the more we hate ourselves, the more humble we are.
If I were a cussing kind of person, this would be the place to come out and say that this belief is cow poop.
I’ve written on the topic before. We’re made in God’s image. To hate on ourselves is to hate on God’s beautiful handiwork. Jesus didn’t die on the cross so you can go about wallowing in how shamefully sinful you are. It is for freedom that Christ set us free (Galatians 5:1)–not to spend our lives living in shame and self-hatred.
I have two claims to make:
1. Self-hated is not humility.
In fact, self depreciation is a form of pride. To look at ourselves and determine our own worth (even if we’re labeling ourselves as worthless) is to pridefully take the driver’s seat and claim that we know more than God when it comes to determining value. That’s messed up. You don’t know more than God.
2. Pride is not evil.
Galatians 6:4 states plainly, “Each one should test his own actions. Then he can take pride in himself without comparing himself to somebody else.” Folks, we were created individually and specifically by a God who loves us deeply. We should be proud of the way he created us. We should be proud when we obey him. We should be proud when we use the strengths and skills he gave us to honor him. Believe in yourself because your Maker, the Maker of the whole universe, believes in you. This pride is healthy and encouraged.
Pride is dangerous when we are proud of ourselves because we compare ourselves to others. When I’m proud because I can oil paint better than anyone else in my family, I’m still dissing God’s creation. I’m dissing my family members and regarding them as less valuable because I’m “better” than they at this particular skill. That’s an unhealthy pride. But when I’m proud of my oil paintings because God created me with the ability to see color well and to have the patience to work it out on paper, then it’s a healthy pride.
Dear readers, don’t be ashamed of who you are. Don’t fall prey to the stupid lie that you have to hate yourself to have true humility. God created you with big plans in store. He alone gets to determine your value. Have confidence in yourself and be proud of who God created you.