Our Desire for Recognition

“Whoever exalts himself will be humbled; but whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” (Mt. 23:12)

In spite of Jesus’ admonition, many of us struggle with the desire to be recognized and honored.  While I may try to be humble, there is an unspoken desire in me for recognition that has been a weakness in my character for a good part of my life.

This can manifest itself in various ways — being disappointed when we don’t receive compliments, experiencing jealousy over another’s success, allowing ambition to crowd out other priorities in our lives. There was a time early in my career when I allowed the desire to move up the corporate ladder to short change other responsibilities in my life.  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 recognition for things I 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 selfishness or vain glory; rather, humbly regard others as more important 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, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped.”  (Philippians 2:3, 6)

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, with his likely carpenter apprenticeship to his earthly father and the evolving revelation by his heavenly Father to teach, to witness and eventually to sacrifice his life in a tortuous death for the rest of us.

St. Peter in his first letter encourages us to “clothe yourselves with humility in your dealings with one another, for: ‘God opposes the proud but bestows favor on the humble.’  So humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time.” (1 Peter 5:5-6) 

A priest once told me that the recognition we receive from God in being loved and accepted by him is all the recognition we need. 

Do you seek recognition in the world’s eyes, or is being loved and accepted by God sufficient for you?  

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