We all have seen this phenomenon: Star athletes, basking in the adoration of their fans, exhibiting various kinds of disgraceful behavior. Entertainers and media celebrities acting very unlike the kind, friendly, engaging personalities they seem to be on TV or the movie screen. Politicians, so endearing during their election campaigns, displaying arrogance toward all that disagree with them.
We sometimes describe such individuals as “believing their own press clippings,” caught up in their own fame and success. The adulation they receive has them convinced they truly are “special.”
Most of us recoil at the misbehavior and offensive, pompous attitudes of these public figures. But even if we have not achieved such celebrated status, we can flirt with the danger of falling into the same kinds of self-absorbed attitudes.
For instance, you earn recognition as the top sales executive in your department or your entire company. When people pat you on the back and offer congratulations, how do you respond? You finally receive that long-sought promotion, gaining a new office, the status and additional corporate benefits that come with it. How do you regard the staff members who have not reached your level of achievement, who perhaps must now report to you?
Or suppose you are invited to speak at a prominent industry gathering, your talk is well-received, and afterward numerous people come up to commend you on the excellent and entertaining message you gave. Do you graciously receive the compliments, gratified that what you had to say was beneficial to your listeners, or do you start thinking to yourself, “Yes, I really was good, wasn’t I”?
Years ago I was the editor of a magazine that underwent major changes under my direction. As the revisions became established, people began approaching me at various meetings to thank me for the changes. Initially I was pleased to receive the affirmation, but over time these kind gestures were no longer a surprise. It was then I realized the danger of letting nice words bolster my ego.
We typically view life’s “tests” as times when we are confronted with hardship and adversity. The test is how we respond to difficult circumstances. But I have learned we also can be tested by success. Prosperity is good – unless it causes us to become puffed up with pride. The Bible addresses this:
Surviving the fires of flattery. Just as precious metals are refined by extreme heat to remove impurities, our times of testing in life – good and bad – can serve to reveal our personal flaws, and hopefully help to eliminate them. “The crucible for silver and the furnace for gold, but man is tested by the praise he receives” (Proverbs 27:21).
Avoiding the temptation of self-promotion. We live in a brand-conscious, hyper-marketed world. We are told we must promote ourselves if we are to advance professionally and realize our ambitions. “You have to beat your own drum to get noticed,” we are told. But there is something about a sincere, humble spirit that people respect and admire, that gains favor. “Let another praise you, and not your own mouth; someone else, and not your own lips” (Proverbs 27:2).
Robert J. Tamasy is vice president of communications for Leaders Legacy, Inc., a non-profit organization based in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S.A. A veteran journalist, he has written Tufting Legacies (iUniverse); Business At Its Best: Timeless Wisdom from Proverbs for Today’s Workplace (River City Press); and has coauthored with David A. Stoddard, The Heart of Mentoring (NavPress). For more information, see www.leaderslegacy.com or his blogs, www.bobtamasy.blogspot.comand www.bobtamasy.wordpress.com.
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1. What is your reaction when you see or read about famous people that appear to be caught up in their own celebrity status, behaving outrageously or even being arrested for engaging in illegal activities?
2. Do you agree that receiving praise for personal and professional accomplishments can be a test of one’s character, revealing who they really are on the inside by how they respond to it? Why or why not?
3. When your superiors or peers commend for your work, what is your typical way of responding? Have you ever personally felt as if you were being “tested by the praise you received?” Explain your answer.
4. How can people avoid becoming “puffed up” by success, beginning to think more highly of themselves than they should?
NOTE: If you have a Bible and would like to read more about this subject, consider the following passages:
Proverbs 11:2, 15:33, 16:18, 18:12, 22:4; Romans 12:3; Philippians 2:3-11; 1 Peter 5:5-6