How to Control Our Desire for Recognition

Do you desire to be recognized and honored?

Even though Jesus admonishes us that “whoever exalts himself will be humbled,” many of us struggle with the desire to be recognized and honored.  While I may try to act humble, there is an unspoken desire for recognition that has been a weakness in my character for most of my life.

This can manifest itself in various ways – becoming angry over perceived slights, experiencing jealousy over another’s success, allowing ambition to crowd out other priorities in our lives, to name just a few. There was a time early in my career as an attorney for a large international oil company when I allowed the desire to move up the corporate ladder to short change the responsibilities to my family.  Fortunately, the Lord opened my eyes to this reality and gave me the grace to bring better balance to both family and work.

Still, I quietly desire more recognition for things I write, say and do.  St. Gregory of Nyssa said we should “openly despise the accolades of the world and reject all earthly glory.” He suggested seeking God’s will instead of our own as a true act of humility and self-denial.

St. Paul has one of the best statements about seeking recognition.  He says, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.”  He then goes on to make one of the more eloquent statements in all of scripture when he declares that our attitude should be the same as Christ Jesus, “Who being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking on the very nature of a servant.” (Philippians 2:3, 6-7)

If Jesus, the Son of God, did not seek recognition for who he was, why should we?  Confident in his relationship with the Father, he was content with the family who raised him, his likely carpenter apprenticeship to his earthly father and the evolving revelation of his call by God to teach, to witness and eventually to sacrifice his life in a tortuous death for the rest of us.

St. Paul said he learned to be content with whatever the circumstances, “whether living in plenty or want,” because he could “do everything through who him gives me strength.”(Philippians 4:11-13)  We, too, should seek to be content without regard to recognition or honor, seeking God’s will instead of our own in all things.

Who do you seek to please – the people in your life or God?  Jesus said, “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Mt. 6:33)

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