I am really tired. Tired of the games, the clicks, the competition, the comparisons, all of it. It seems that to be in this world—this literary world in which we sell our advice and “expertise” to others in a book or download or blog— requires that we not only belittle others who may pose a threat to our mission or our climb up the ranks, but we must pimp ourselves out and focus solely on how great we think we are and why others think we are as great as we think we are.
Who have we become? Over the last few years, I have both loved deeply and learned to distance myself from those who once inspired me and influenced me to be a better person. I read all their work, bought all their books, listened to all their podcasts, and even developed friendships with those I admired. Do you know what happens after you get to know someone? You discover who they really are. When that happens, grace becomes really difficult to extend.
I know that to be in this world, there are choices we make that either demonstrates that we care about the praise and applause of this world or of the Kingdom. Of course, the very thought that I would do anything just to seek praise seems rather precarious. Many of us work very hard to teach ourselves that we don’t need praise or admiration because we are qualified in love, by the mere fact that we are made in the image of God. The fact that I Am is praise enough.
But let’s just say that I have embraced this idea that all I do is for the glory of God and not the glory of men, or media, or an audience of the world. That doesn’t mean I don’t care about what others think. That doesn’t mean that I reject compliments. It just means that what others say about me neither adds to me nor takes away from me.
It also means that the praise of others is not what I use to validate what I have to say. Although some do agree with me, that doesn’t mean that I am “right,” nor does it mean that what I do or say is justified. Even if I have a book that makes it to the New York Times Bestselling List, that doesn’t mean that everything I write is absolute. Sure, we feel that strength in numbers somehow quantifies the way we reason and opine, but we could all be wrong even if we agree.
What if we are wrong, despite having a legion of followers that agree with us? What if you are a podcaster and have half a million downloads (and you remind your audience of that every time you publish a new podcast)? Does that mean you are more right in your views than another? Does that mean that you are better than another? Does that mean I should be more willing to believe all that you say is “truth”? What is truth?
I see it so often in the media realm that I find it heartbreaking. This idea that if you have such and such a number of followers on Twitter, or if you max out your friend count on Facebook, or if you have such and such amount of downloads, thousands of clicks on your blog, that must mean that you are right. That’s not how it works. It just means that you have that many people that may have, at one time or another, agreed with something you stated, tweeted, or posted.
If I make the claim that all that I do is for the glory of God, then what does it mean if I continue to remind others how great I am? Is it really the glory of God that I am seeking, or is it the praise of the world that I am seeking? It could be a little of both, but if I hunt for the praise of people, how does that feed my ego? And does that praise become a drug? Does my ego become addicted to the praise and the compliments and the retweets? How could one not become addicted to that kind of high that follows?
It’s difficult to stay grounded when you have people begging you to say more and do more. When others are enthralled and entertained by your controversy and provocation, is it you that they are agreeing with or the reaction that your statement creates for them and others? I tend to believe that more and more people are merely engrossed by the activation of a proclamation than the substance and context of the proclamation itself. And if that’s the case, it’s not really you that others are praising, it’s the potential reaction that ensues—like outrage. I have said this before, outrage is the new orgasm. And maybe now, it’s even a delightful appetizer.
So, we can become addicted to praise and provocation. Praise isn’t a nutritious diet, however. Because when we don’t have praise to feed on, we often turn to less nutrient-dense forms of sustenance, like ridicule, criticism, outrage, and defense. Often, those dietary options can create more instances of praise to be dolled out to us that we can feed on, but we continue the cruel cycle of feeding ourselves a bunch of bullshit.
The easiest fix to this is to change our diet. By changing that which we consume, we can eradicate the toxins and the sugars that are left behind in our bodies that harden our hearts and calcify our compassion. Praise shouldn’t be the main course, it should be the dessert that you only opt for once in a while because too much praise bloats the ego, fattens the fallacy, and takes outrage to obese levels that no longer serve us or anyone else. It’s not that praise is evil or wrong, it’s that too much of anything can create a dependency, or rather, an addiction.
The Bible also gives us several reminders of the consumption of praise of human kind befalling those who claim to believe in God.
Jesus said, “I do not accept the glory from human beings, but I know you do. I know that you do not have the love of God in your hearts. I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not accept me; but if someone else comes in his own name, you will accept him. How can you believe since you accept glory from one another but do not seek the glory that comes from the only God?” (John 5:41-44)
In the Gospel of John, we also find the acknowledgment of those who sought the praise of men over God: “Many at the same time even among the leaders believed in him. But because of the Pharisees, they would not openly acknowledge their faith for fear they would be put out of the synagogue; for they loved human praise more than praise from God.” (John 12:42-43)
Let us be mindful of this competitive sport of opining and proselytizing. If it is truly done for the glory of God, download counts, blog shares, retweets, and book purchases only demonstrate the praise of humans. They do not qualify our existence. They do not add more to what we are. We do not need the praise of the world to seek the glory of God.