In yesterday’s post I was reflecting on the ways in which we lie to each other: both upwards (‘hey, everybody! Come see how great I am’) and downwards (‘I’m a woorm, it was nothing, this ole’ thing? I just threw it on’ etcetc).
Without wanting to make gender assumptions, in my experience women are more likely to lie ‘down’ and men to lie ‘up’. (For a great analysis of this, see Kirsten’s comments). But when I consider the typical church environment, I wonder if these distinctions still hold.
In the church context, I reckon our default setting is to lie downwards. There might be great reasons for it (sparing other people’s feelings, avoiding conflict, general ‘nice-ness’), but it’s still lying. If you’ve ever tried to give a godly person a compliment, you may have comes across this (see also ‘Step Away from the Dog Collar‘). It’s like trying to get blood out of a stone. You say something positive, (‘did you make these? They’re lovely’) and whooomph! it’s right back at you, (‘oh it was nothing, practically baked themselves, not like your famous sponge..’) and on it goes, till you’re both completely knackered. (For the record I’m not a baker and I have no sponge, but a girl can dream). When it comes to competitive outkinding, we Christians are experts. But these exchanges can sometimes hinder communication, rather than help. They deflect attention instead of encouraging meaningful interaction. They can be just as superficial as talk about the weather…and for people-pleasers like me, they’re addictive too.
Though it looks like we’re encouraging each other, by always deflecting praise, we’re doing exactly the opposite. It’s hard to receive – but the answer isn’t to push these gifts aside. Nor are we being proud if we recognise that God gives us – and each other – talents that we can use to bless other people. A community of grace is by definition a community that receives. If we can’t do this, we’re presenting a God who’s very different to the One we preach.