|The Imitation of Christ by Thomas à Kempis, Book III Chapter XIV: ”On the Consideration of God’s Secret Judgments so that We be Not Proud of Our Own Good” (second entry)
The last section of this chapter deals once again with vainglory or pride and its opposition to submissiveness to God who is the exemplar of humility in Jesus Christ. Praises will fade in this short life, but the truth of God, and our eternal destiny, remain forever.
The next section of the Sermon on the Mount gives us two more famous (and famously difficult) entreaties of the Lord: “Love your enemies” and ‘Be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Jesus emphasizes the importance of being God-like: love everyone as God loves them — not as they love you.
It is easy to get caught up in accolades of our fellow men, especially if we have special talents that we share that are particularly appreciated by others. And in this day and age, with the pervasiveness of social media, we can all too easily get caught up in “likes” and page views and comboxes to judge our worth. Now, receiving kind words is not a bad thing (and giving them generously is even better). Appreciation expressed for others’ gifts can provide an important confirmation of one’s work or ministry; it can give a much needed affirmation for their continued efforts. But it should never make the recipient proud in himself. We don’t deny the gift, we just shift the thanks to the Giver of the gifts. Denying the gift is false humility. Acknowledging the Gift-giver is true humility. And when the harsh reviews come in — and they will — we do not love those critics any less; in fact, maybe we love them more, being unfailingly gracious and praying to the Lord that we might be better instruments to move their hearts closer to Eternal Truth.