By Steven Norris
I have always been fascinated by the idea of “addition by subtraction.” At times, our impact and effectiveness can be increased when we take away distractions and focus on what is most important. In the eighth chapter of John’s Gospel, Jesus did something like this when he articulated three “I am not” statements. By taking a few things off the table, he reduced the clutter so that his followers could see and understand him more clearly.
In verse 50, Jesus said, “I am not seeking glory for myself…” Seeking glory for oneself can be a temptation for us all. Most people want to be successful and to be recognized for doing a good job — in our careers, neighborhoods, churches, and families. Here are a few warning signs, however, that you might be seeking your own glory as opposed to God’s.
1. You are constantly pursuing the “attaboy.” You know the kind of person I’m talking about. The teacher’s pet. The one who always sat on the front row and always needed to be reassured that he/she was doing a good job. When we serve others and seek to do good only for the recognition, we may be in danger of doing so for the wrong reasons.
2. You become bitter or anger when you aren’t properly thanked. Everyone loves to get a “thank you” at the end of a hard day’s service. However, if the lack of gratitude makes you bitter and angry, you might ask why you were doing the service in the first place.
3. You constantly feel the need to advertise your accomplishments. Social media can be a black hole of narcissistic tendencies. I have friends who seem to believe that “if I don’t post about it online, it didn’t really happen.” If we have to constantly trumpet our successes, our sacrifices, or our awards, we may be doing it for the wrong reason.
4. You live as though everything were a competition. Comparison is the enemy of contentment: “Well, at least I’m not as bad as…” or “I’m sure that I did better than…” When we are constantly focusing on how our lives and our actions compare to those of our friends, neighbors, or coworkers, it may be a strong sign that we aren’t really seeking God’s glory, but our own.
5. You are terrified of being outed as a fake. All of us suffer at times from “imposter syndrome.” We’ve so manicured our public appearance that we are convinced, “if you knew the real me, you wouldn’t like me, accept me, or even want to be around me.” Once again, this is a sign that we have taken our eyes off God’s glory and are focusing on appearances.
On more than one occasion, Jesus reminded his disciples of the paradox of God’s kingdom: “those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted” (Matthew 23:12). May we all be reminded that our calling is to glorify the only One worthy of all glory, honor, and praise.