Blessings and Boasting – the place of pride

[Updated from the archives.]

Anne Bogel at Modern Mrs. Darcy sat for an interview once and was asked: What are you proud of? The question stumped her:

There are so many ways to blow a question like that. There are the obvious ways: you can outright brag, which is bad, or humble brag, which is worse.

Or you can sabotage yourself in a more subtle way. Unfortunately, for women, talking about your business successes undermines your likability. It’s much safer to defer, claiming luck or circumstance as the cause of our success, rather than anything we did. Naming a professional success we’re proud of is dangerous.

It’s not that much easier for men. Tooting my own horn is no easier for me than a woman bragging about herself would be.

It might come down to what you mean by the word “pride”, though. Anne included a helpful definition.

pride: a feeling or deep pleasure or satisfaction derived from one’s own achievements, the achievements of those with whom one is closely associated, or from qualities or possessions that are widely admired.

“the team was bursting with pride after recording a sensational victory”

synonyms: pleasure, joy, delight, gratification, fulfillment, satisfaction, a sense of achievement

In light of that dictionary definition, what it really looks like to me is not a matter of what I am most proud of but what I am most pleased about.

The Pleasure of Taking Pride

When I look at the things I’ve experienced (what some people might call my accomplishments) I see that dictionary definition of the word pride fitting perfectly, even if I don’t call it being proud.

Am I proud of how my kids have turned out? I see it more that I am pleased to say our son and daughter have grown up into wonderful young adults.

Am I proud of my marriage? I would say that I am pleased at the fact we just celebrated our 30th anniversary and that I enjoy my wife’s company over any other person I know. (There are tons of people who are tied for second, and our kids are in a category of their own – see preceding paragraph.)

Am I proud of how my blog has come along? I have to say that I am  pleased that people come by to read and comment and engage in discussion and thus make it a better blog than it could possibly be without them. (I count many of my bloggy friends as among those tied for second – see preceding paragraph.)

Am I proud of my accomplishments at work? I’m pleased to wake up in the morning and be able to say “I get to go to work today” and work at a job I really enjoy, seem to be good at, and get to do with wonderful colleagues I’ve gotten to know and make friends with from all over the state.

So if what I call “pleased” is what the dictionary defines as “pride”, then I suppose these are some of the things I’m proud of.

But either way, I’m blessed.

Getting Boastful About It

The danger of being prideful and boastful is that it puts the focus on us when it should be on God. Still, the Bible encourages boastfulness of a certain kind:

 This is what the Lord says:
“Let not the wise boast of their wisdom
    or the strong boast of their strength
    or the rich boast of their riches,
but let the one who boasts boast about this:
    that they have the understanding to know me,
that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness,
    justice and righteousness on earth,
    for in these I delight,”
declares the Lord. (Jeremiah 9:23-24.)

It is not our earthly accomplishments that are worth boasting about, then, but the fact that we know God. After all, do you know anyone else who is truly kind and just and righteous? No wonder a relationship with God is something to be pleased with, something to be proud about, something to boast in.

Yet even this relationship is not something we can take credit for and boast about as if we accomplished it.

it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9.)

It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 1:30-31.)

So we see there truly is a blessing in boasting when the boasting is about God, who he is and what he has done. As the psalmist said, God is worth tooting a horn about.

Clap your hands, all you nations;
    shout to God with cries of joy.
God has ascended amid shouts of joy,
    the Lord amid the sounding of trumpets.
Sing praises to God, sing praises;
    sing praises to our King, sing praises.
For God is the King of all the earth;
    sing to him a psalm of praise.
(Psalm 47:1, 5-7.)


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6 Responses to Blessings and Boasting – the place of pride

  1. Jeannie Prinsen says:

    This is great, Tim — the use of “pleased” in the place of “proud” makes perfect sense in the examples you speak of.

    It seems to me that boasting about our relationship with God is not always popular nowadays. I was reading a post recently which lamented how discipleship can become very shallow: in many Christian circles we lack a robust liturgy that allows us (1) to confess and repent and (2) to look beyond ourselves to the world’s needs — so the best we can do is sing about how our God is greater and stronger etc. The person was pointing out how this ends up being kind of rah-rah and triumphant but not very deep. I guess we need to be careful that our boasting isn’t just fist-pumping and “We’re on the RIGHT side!”

  2. Anu Riley says:

    I wish I could be more like Brother Paul when the Lord spoke through him about this very topic:

    “But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” (2Corinthians 12:9)

    Back story being that Paul was deeply troubled and in some form of intense pain and cried out to the Lord to remove it (three times!). That was His answer to him. I don’t know if many would think to answer the question—what are you most proud of (or pleased with)—with the laundry list of items in which we are weak, frail, subject to temptation and not really “proud” of so to speak.

    I’ll step out in the waters and say how NOT proud (or pleased) I am with myself when I lose my temper, when I do not count my blessings, when I speak when I should rather listen, and when I am overall NOT setting a good example for those around me. That’s just a small, VERY short list.

    But I glory in that He reached out to me (for some reason) and brought me to Himself, has never given up on me, loves me the same as before I was born again AND afterwards, pays close attention to me when I am in need, comforts me when I cry, and holds me together when I feel like falling apart and giving up. This list could certainly go longer, too, but in a good way!

  3. Pastor Bob says:

    It is hard to do better than this:
    “This is great, Tim — the use of “pleased” in the place of “proud” makes perfect sense in the examples you speak of. ”

    But, my greatest accomplishments include, teaching others to succeed, teaching others how to think independently, encouraging the respectful sharing of ideas even if they are not popular, encouraging careful and respectful listening, sharing the goal of finding common ground in areas of controversy, and the ability to share sensitive ideas with delicacy.

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