Don’t Be a Performance Model {Resisting the Praise of Man}

She’s not a performance model.  

Although she thinks she is.  Our little Dachshund, Sophie, is no model pup.  She is everything her breed should not be.  Instead of dainty and thin, she is bullish and large.  She knows it; she’s bashful when it comes to body image. That is until you take her on a walk.

Something about the open air and rough-surfaced sidewalk brings out her inner Greyhound.  She will run like a force of might for about ten feet.  Yes, literally ten feet is about all it takes for the reality of her largeness to crash in upon her dreams of being a champion race dog.   Yet, I have learned an incredible motivational secret for Sophie.

Sophie lives for the praise of man.

I can keep her racing around the neighborhood, no matter how fatigued, with repetitive praise.  “Good job, Sophie!”  “Look at you race!”  “You are so fast!”  As long as I am affirming and rewarding, Sophie is a racer.

Silence gives way for the shouts of muscle aches and wobbling fat to be heard.  She pants.  She slows.  She stops.  Without the praise, there is nothing worthy of the effort. 

There’s a Sophie in all of us.  Living out dreams for the applause of others.   Pushing ourselves to do things…to keep up…to press on…all because we too live for the praise of man.

For many of us—and I believe this is particularly prevalent in Christian ministry—our race is fueled by the responses of others.  The drive for being known and being liked may well be defining “our call” more than the voice of God.  What danger there is in this!  Does this not just make us prophets for hire?  Stop and reflect for a moment on how often the man or woman of God as found in the Scriptures must obey in the face of unpopularity, obscurity, and criticism.  If God called us to the same today {and I believe He does}, would we still take the mission?  Better yet, would we let our friends go on in the silent approval of God or would we need to rush in with a rescuing word of flattery?   Please, can someone tell me why so many of our churches are filled with the praise of man?

We’ve got to personalize this issue:

If no one saw your service or ministry…and no one “liked” it, would you still do it?   What is something you are currently doing that you enjoy the accolades more than the actual activity?  Would you still teach that Sunday School class if no one told you that you were great with kids?  Would you write that blog if your stats confirmed nobody was reading it?  Would you still preach that sermon if you knew the only mail you’d get about it would be critical?  Are you more apt to pull out all the stops on a meal for your friends because you know they’ll give you more enthusiastic raves than do your own children?

It’s so easy to become a performance model. 

The skills, talents, and gifts that were designed to allow us to worship God and call attention to Him can so easily be mismanaged by our egos.  We let it go to our head where it feeds our entitlement.  Before long, we actually think we’ve become the person of greatness we’ve been trying to fool other people into believing we are.  But when the praise of man fades, we know we’re left with only the sound of our panting and laboring for something that was never meant to be ours in the first place.

I believe to different degrees–no matter our position–we all struggle with this.  I have.  I’d think you were lying to me or yourself, if you told me you didn’t.

How do we change?

  1. Daily remind yourself who is supposed to get praise.  Only One is worthy of praise.  It’s not you.
  2. Repent.  Living for the praise of man is idolatry.  Our eyes have fallen off of Christ.  Instead, we make too much of the people from whom praise may come and we make too much of ourselves for somehow believing that we deserve those words of affirmation.    Note:  Social media can be an easy stumbling block for the sin of idolatry.  It’s so easy to become obsessed with having something clever to say, mindful of how many “followers” we have, and eager to self-promote.  I know this is ironic since I am writing this on my blog, which will be automatically tweeted and linked to my Facebook.  Yet, the caution is no less true.  Yes, social media offers incredible opportunity for the influence of our gifts and talents, but how many of us are like a dog on a chain, panting along just so someone will say, “Good job!” 
  3. Listen only to the voice of our Shepherd.  Never let another replace the treasure of hearing from Him, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
  4. Start living under the watchful eye of God, who sees all.  Identify those areas where you are apt to do more and perform better if human eyes are watching.  Stop cutting corners when you think nobody is watching.    Remain faithful even if nobody notices.
  5. Invite a friend to explore with you if you have a blind spot as it relates to your motivation.   Do they find you trolling for praise? Do you become sullen or melancholy in the face of silence?
  6. Be intentional with your affirmation.  Even this act can be part of the performance.  How often do you feel the need to rescue someone with a word of praise—is the praise really theirs to receive?  In many respects, we can change this by disrupting the supply and demand chain.   That person doesn’t need your praise.  If they weren’t doing it to bring to praise to Jesus, they shouldn’t be doing it in the first place.  Instead of praising others, adopt the biblical model:  a) Give thanks to people for their faithfulness.  b) Give thanks to God for the influence of other’s ministry in your life.  c) Encourage others to keep being faithful.  But send them to Jesus for their “good job!” and “way to go!”

How about you?  Do you struggle with being a performance model?  What Scriptures have helped you to keep your focus on Christ?  Would you add anything to the list of how to change?

Will you join me in resisting the performance model tendency?  Instead, let’s strive together to be a worship model.

Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.           ~Romans 12:1

One thought on “Don’t Be a Performance Model {Resisting the Praise of Man}

  1. I LOVE my ministry and would serve there even if no one ever said anything. Adjusting to changes has been challenging, though, and I’ve had to remember why I’m there: because God called me to be there! It’s been an interesting few months, and I miss my old ‘boss’! 🙂 Hopefully things will settle in to a better place soon and I can go back to simply loving my ministry.

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