“I want to look sharp. I want to really impress people by what I say and do. I seek praise and recognition. I hope to be a “front runner” in life; actually #1, the winner and over the top. Being superior is a thrill. Standing out as better gives me such a rush — of joy, excitement, and self-adulation. People recognizing me as a notch above, gives me the feeling I am somebody.” Such are the typical words and thoughts of many of us caught up and enamored by the glory of this world.
The victory of competitive sports all over the world motivates committed athletes to endure pain and discipline often beyond our imagination. The results appear quite sad – half or more become losers. Defeat escapes but a few. The months and years of rigorous discipline often gain little recognition for many. The preeminent title of “winner” eludes most. Pictures tell the tale. After an athletic contest, the clashing differences between the faces of winners and losers are quite a contrast. There is never any doubt as to who is who.
Psychologically, defining in one’s mind that a victorious ending is necessary for happiness, may just be the impetus to conquer the opponent, or on the contrary, to set the stage for an emotional depression from the crushing blow of defeat.
Some weeks ago we experienced the greatest athletic event of the year — the annual Super Bowl with its winners and losers proclaimed. Cameras and press focused on the joy and exaltation of the victors, avoiding the sight and sighs of the losers.
All of us find ourselves on the playing field of life with events for basking and others for hiding. It seems so foolish, however, to frantically run our lives to look good, to impress, to be a winner — IN THE EYES OF PEOPLE. How vain it is to define the applause of people as of lasting worth or being of any fulfilling value. Our desire for human glory, adulation, recognition and honor is pure foolishness and it is also sinful; foolishness because all humans disappear (die) with the honor they possess or give; sinful because we have been given everything. Our Creator is the rightful and solitary honoree. Priding ourselves in our achievements might well be seen as stealing from God.
“You are worthy, our Lord and God to receive glory and honor and power for you created all things.” [Rev. 4:11]
“He who exalts himself shall be humbled”. [Mt. 23:12]
May we not be foolishly misguided by the drive of pride.
The Rev. John Burkhart Ph.D, is a retired Episcopal priest and professor of psychology
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