Pride vs. Gratitude

When Gabby Douglas won the gold medal for individual women’s gymnastics, the first thing she did was shift the glory:

“Let all that I am praise the LORD; may I never forget the good things he does for me.” These are the first words 16-year-old gymnast Gabrielle Douglas tweeted after she won the all around gold medal at the London Olympics yesterday. On the stadium floor, Douglas also told a reporter that ”the glory goes up to Him, and the blessings fall down on me.”

via Gabby Douglas Wins Gold, Gives Glory to God | Urban Faith.

It seems to me that this is not saying God made me win, as some athletes seem to, but a perfectly appropriate expression of faith at a moment of great personal joy that could easily be a celebration of one’s self.  That strikes me as a valuable spiritual discipline, the ability to do that.   When a person achieves something great–in sports, in a profession, in life–it is possible to respond with pride or one with gratitude.

HT:  Sarah Pulliam Bailey

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • Pete

    “When a person achieves something great–in sports, in a profession, in life–it is possible to respond with pride or one with gratitude.”

    I think both are appropriate. She put in the time, energy, pain, etc. to make it happen and is entitled to a measure of pride – pride in a good sense (which does, I believe, exist.) At the same time, it’s good to acknowledge that many, if not all, of the things that enable her to perform at this level (cat-like reflexes, top shelf strength and coordination, small stature, etc.) are surely God-given.

    Apologies to our gracious host in advance if this hijacks the blog thread, but I’m dying to know what people think of the double amputee 400-meter runner. My opinion is that he ought not be competing with able-bodied athletes* – despite what is a truly remarkable and compelling story. If he were to win – or perhaps set a record, there would be an unanswerable question as to how much the prostheses were aiding him. My wife disagrees.

    (* It might sound crass, but I wonder if “full-bodied athletes” would be a better designation.)

  • Pete

    “When a person achieves something great–in sports, in a profession, in life–it is possible to respond with pride or one with gratitude.”

    I think both are appropriate. She put in the time, energy, pain, etc. to make it happen and is entitled to a measure of pride – pride in a good sense (which does, I believe, exist.) At the same time, it’s good to acknowledge that many, if not all, of the things that enable her to perform at this level (cat-like reflexes, top shelf strength and coordination, small stature, etc.) are surely God-given.

    Apologies to our gracious host in advance if this hijacks the blog thread, but I’m dying to know what people think of the double amputee 400-meter runner. My opinion is that he ought not be competing with able-bodied athletes* – despite what is a truly remarkable and compelling story. If he were to win – or perhaps set a record, there would be an unanswerable question as to how much the prostheses were aiding him. My wife disagrees.

    (* It might sound crass, but I wonder if “full-bodied athletes” would be a better designation.)

  • http://theoldadam.com/ Steve Martin

    What a great young lady Miss Douglas is.

    And I agree with Pete; the runner with artificial lower legs has an advantage. Springs for lower legs and the lack of the weight of real lower legs is not an equal footing.

    Sorry about that, Chief.

  • http://theoldadam.com/ Steve Martin

    What a great young lady Miss Douglas is.

    And I agree with Pete; the runner with artificial lower legs has an advantage. Springs for lower legs and the lack of the weight of real lower legs is not an equal footing.

    Sorry about that, Chief.

  • http://enterthevein.wordpress.com J. Dean

    Congratulations to the girl! Her statement was very good overall. I only have one little nitpick about it: ”the glory goes up to Him, and the blessings fall down on me.”

    I’d like to politely ask her “Would you still give God the glory if there were no blessings coming down?” because I’ve heard similar phrases like this from people who seem to think that God “owes” them blessing if they give Him glory and praise. Again: not saying Miss Douglas is an outright Benny Hinn or Joel Osteen devotee; the impression given is that she has sound, saving faith. I’d just like to know what she means by that last phrase.

  • http://enterthevein.wordpress.com J. Dean

    Congratulations to the girl! Her statement was very good overall. I only have one little nitpick about it: ”the glory goes up to Him, and the blessings fall down on me.”

    I’d like to politely ask her “Would you still give God the glory if there were no blessings coming down?” because I’ve heard similar phrases like this from people who seem to think that God “owes” them blessing if they give Him glory and praise. Again: not saying Miss Douglas is an outright Benny Hinn or Joel Osteen devotee; the impression given is that she has sound, saving faith. I’d just like to know what she means by that last phrase.

  • Michael B.

    However, sometimes arrogance masquerades as gratitude. It’s like “thank you God for making me so much better than other people” or “thank you God for selecting me as special among all people”.

  • Michael B.

    However, sometimes arrogance masquerades as gratitude. It’s like “thank you God for making me so much better than other people” or “thank you God for selecting me as special among all people”.

  • Mary

    A 16 year old girl, repeat 16 year old girl wins the gold medal, relays her gratitude to God and we want to sit and pick that apart? Some how I don’t think that a young girl at that level of competition during her spare time (does she have any spare time?) sits around reading the confessions to make sure she says just the right thing to satisfy the blowhards on the blogs out there.

  • Mary

    A 16 year old girl, repeat 16 year old girl wins the gold medal, relays her gratitude to God and we want to sit and pick that apart? Some how I don’t think that a young girl at that level of competition during her spare time (does she have any spare time?) sits around reading the confessions to make sure she says just the right thing to satisfy the blowhards on the blogs out there.

  • Tom Hering

    You know it’s a slow day if we’re busy straining gnats. :-D

  • Tom Hering

    You know it’s a slow day if we’re busy straining gnats. :-D

  • Steve Billingsley

    What’s wrong with just smiling at the skill and grace that Miss Douglas showed both on the competitive floor and off? Why not just enjoy it?

    Good grief.

  • Steve Billingsley

    What’s wrong with just smiling at the skill and grace that Miss Douglas showed both on the competitive floor and off? Why not just enjoy it?

    Good grief.

  • Dr. Luther in the 21st Century

    Anybody who speaks publicly is open to scrutiny. Everybody regardless of age should be wise and careful of their public witness.

    I think you reading to much into her statement Dr Veith. She is quoting a popular statement with in certain circles.

  • Dr. Luther in the 21st Century

    Anybody who speaks publicly is open to scrutiny. Everybody regardless of age should be wise and careful of their public witness.

    I think you reading to much into her statement Dr Veith. She is quoting a popular statement with in certain circles.

  • DonS

    Amen, Mary @ 5 and Tom @ 6. Gabby is an impressive young 16 year old, both in her athletic prowess and dedication, and in her public presence. She IS blessed, and mature enough to recognize that the glory belongs to the Lord.

  • DonS

    Amen, Mary @ 5 and Tom @ 6. Gabby is an impressive young 16 year old, both in her athletic prowess and dedication, and in her public presence. She IS blessed, and mature enough to recognize that the glory belongs to the Lord.

  • fjsteve

    Come on, isn’t the real story here that if you rearrange the letters of her last name it spells “USA Gold”?

  • fjsteve

    Come on, isn’t the real story here that if you rearrange the letters of her last name it spells “USA Gold”?

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    It is good and right to praise God and give him thanks at a time like that. And if people want to make it out that she is saying she is better than everyone else, or that God some how loves her more than others, I think that speaks more about their insecurities and lack of faith than anything. That is what I will argue.
    Quite frankly I find a reaction like that to be quite a humble one. And one can have pride in their accomplishments and give thanks to God without thereby denigrating others.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    It is good and right to praise God and give him thanks at a time like that. And if people want to make it out that she is saying she is better than everyone else, or that God some how loves her more than others, I think that speaks more about their insecurities and lack of faith than anything. That is what I will argue.
    Quite frankly I find a reaction like that to be quite a humble one. And one can have pride in their accomplishments and give thanks to God without thereby denigrating others.

  • http://enterthevein.wordpress.com J. Dean

    All I want to know is what she meant by her last phrase. Other than that, I have no problem with what she said.

  • http://enterthevein.wordpress.com J. Dean

    All I want to know is what she meant by her last phrase. Other than that, I have no problem with what she said.

  • Dust

    J. Dean…am not much of a theological type, but seems to me the answer to your question re: no blessings coming down, describes an existence impossible on on God’s green earth, but is a pretty good and simple description of existence in hell? you know, the place where all who enter should abandon all hope?

    no blessings coming down? to me it doesn’t describe ANY existence on this earth, no matter how bad. regardless of your earthly circumstances (even the worst) you still have life (a living dog trumps a dead lion!), plus hope and faith and the knowledge that someday you and others will be with the Lord. these troubles are only temporary and not worth to be compared to what comes later? well, seems like blessings to me….

    sound like blessings to you? hope so, and lots of blessings, new every morning for everyone, everywhere :)

    cheers!

  • Dust

    J. Dean…am not much of a theological type, but seems to me the answer to your question re: no blessings coming down, describes an existence impossible on on God’s green earth, but is a pretty good and simple description of existence in hell? you know, the place where all who enter should abandon all hope?

    no blessings coming down? to me it doesn’t describe ANY existence on this earth, no matter how bad. regardless of your earthly circumstances (even the worst) you still have life (a living dog trumps a dead lion!), plus hope and faith and the knowledge that someday you and others will be with the Lord. these troubles are only temporary and not worth to be compared to what comes later? well, seems like blessings to me….

    sound like blessings to you? hope so, and lots of blessings, new every morning for everyone, everywhere :)

    cheers!

  • http://theoldadam.com/ Steve Martin

    I want to know exactly what is in her heart!

    Ha ha ha.

    We don’t even know what’s in our own hearts and motivations.

    Give the kid a break. Give her the benefit of a little grace.

  • http://theoldadam.com/ Steve Martin

    I want to know exactly what is in her heart!

    Ha ha ha.

    We don’t even know what’s in our own hearts and motivations.

    Give the kid a break. Give her the benefit of a little grace.

  • Cincinnatus

    “Anybody who speaks publicly is open to scrutiny. Everybody regardless of age should be wise and careful of their public witness.”

    Oh please. If the things I said publicly as a 16-year-old were subject to media attention and scrutiny, I would be mortified–and execrated on blogs like this one, evidently. Were her words perfect? No. But she’s a teenager, out of breath and overwhelmed by the fact that she had just won a strenuous athletic competition. We should all be pleasantly surprised that her first thought was a gesture of thanks to God. Good on her.

    Besides, she’s an Olympic gymnast. They train so much and so hard that they stunt their bodies permanently. It’s not like she has much time or energy to contemplate deep theological mysteries, much less the sort of casuistry happening in these comments.

  • Cincinnatus

    “Anybody who speaks publicly is open to scrutiny. Everybody regardless of age should be wise and careful of their public witness.”

    Oh please. If the things I said publicly as a 16-year-old were subject to media attention and scrutiny, I would be mortified–and execrated on blogs like this one, evidently. Were her words perfect? No. But she’s a teenager, out of breath and overwhelmed by the fact that she had just won a strenuous athletic competition. We should all be pleasantly surprised that her first thought was a gesture of thanks to God. Good on her.

    Besides, she’s an Olympic gymnast. They train so much and so hard that they stunt their bodies permanently. It’s not like she has much time or energy to contemplate deep theological mysteries, much less the sort of casuistry happening in these comments.

  • Dr. Luther in the 21st Century

    @#15 Stop making excuses for mediocrity in speaking.

  • Dr. Luther in the 21st Century

    @#15 Stop making excuses for mediocrity in speaking.

  • Cincinnatus

    Dr. Luther@16:

    Descend from your exceptionally tall horse for a moment and stop pretending that a sixteen-year-old athlete should be the paragon of eloquence and theological acuity. If the media were hailing her as a brilliant intellectual prodigy and showering her with unearned Ph.D.’s, you would have a point. In the meantime, this is like criticizing the Democrats for not being fit to play major league baseball after they defeated the Republicans in the congressional baseball game.

    She said some good words–for a teenage girl whose primary concern is athletics and having a good attitude about athletics. Not everyone needs to be able to quote Luther on command.

  • Cincinnatus

    Dr. Luther@16:

    Descend from your exceptionally tall horse for a moment and stop pretending that a sixteen-year-old athlete should be the paragon of eloquence and theological acuity. If the media were hailing her as a brilliant intellectual prodigy and showering her with unearned Ph.D.’s, you would have a point. In the meantime, this is like criticizing the Democrats for not being fit to play major league baseball after they defeated the Republicans in the congressional baseball game.

    She said some good words–for a teenage girl whose primary concern is athletics and having a good attitude about athletics. Not everyone needs to be able to quote Luther on command.

  • Dr. Luther in the 21st Century

    @#17 Note I have actually said very little about her statement beyond it being a quote of a popular sentiment within certain circles of Christianity. And I made a rather general statement that anybody speaking or writing publicly should do so carefully, because they will be open to scrutiny.

    What I said critically is more about you and others who are trying to say you can’t expect much from her intellectually, she’s only a little gymnast. How patronizing of all of you.

  • Dr. Luther in the 21st Century

    @#17 Note I have actually said very little about her statement beyond it being a quote of a popular sentiment within certain circles of Christianity. And I made a rather general statement that anybody speaking or writing publicly should do so carefully, because they will be open to scrutiny.

    What I said critically is more about you and others who are trying to say you can’t expect much from her intellectually, she’s only a little gymnast. How patronizing of all of you.

  • Cincinnatus

    Dr. Luther@18:

    Ha…I was waiting for you to pick up on that. Yes, it is a bit patronizing. And yes, I freely admit that my expectations regarding the intellectual capacities of teenage girls–especially teenage girls whose lives are literally consumed by physical rather than mental endeavors–are not terribly strenuous.

  • Cincinnatus

    Dr. Luther@18:

    Ha…I was waiting for you to pick up on that. Yes, it is a bit patronizing. And yes, I freely admit that my expectations regarding the intellectual capacities of teenage girls–especially teenage girls whose lives are literally consumed by physical rather than mental endeavors–are not terribly strenuous.

  • Michael B.

    @Mary@5

    “A 16 year old girl, repeat 16 year old girl wins the gold medal, relays her gratitude to God and we want to sit and pick that apart?”

    After I read this I realized you’re probably right. I have a feeling this is like examining in depth the theology behind someone saying “God bless you” after a person sneezes.

  • Michael B.

    @Mary@5

    “A 16 year old girl, repeat 16 year old girl wins the gold medal, relays her gratitude to God and we want to sit and pick that apart?”

    After I read this I realized you’re probably right. I have a feeling this is like examining in depth the theology behind someone saying “God bless you” after a person sneezes.

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    As to the double amputee – that argument is more complex than it seems, and there is no small amount of scientific controversy. However, the revised ruling was that he can compete. Read more here:

    http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=scientists-debate-oscar-pistorius-prosthetic-legs-disqualify-him-olympics

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    As to the double amputee – that argument is more complex than it seems, and there is no small amount of scientific controversy. However, the revised ruling was that he can compete. Read more here:

    http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=scientists-debate-oscar-pistorius-prosthetic-legs-disqualify-him-olympics


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X