1 Corinthians 7:25-31
I am the 3rd of 10 children. There are wonderful things about such a large family, and I am grateful for them. There are also disadvantages. For instance, it can be very hard to get any attention. My older brother and sister handled that through rebellion, causing endless trouble and heartache for my parents and yes, commanding attention.
I handled it by being perfect. I strove to be the best, always doing an outstanding job, achieving excellent grades, and capably handling heavy responsibilities. I lived for the praise of my parents and teachers, and indeed felt their praise proved my worth as a person.
Perfectionism carried over into my adult life. I have tried so hard to be the perfect wife, perfect mother, perfect teacher, perfect employee, perfect friend, and perfect Christian. I always gave 100% or more, sometimes even to my detriment. Doing one’s best, of course, is admirable. However, for too much of my life the goal was not really to do my best, but to be praised.
In the gospel, Jesus teaches that the desire for praise, along with the desires for wealth and easy life, are hollow. My worth in God’s eyes does not result from awards, achievements, or applause. Instead, I need to continue letting go of any need for glowing accolades. My task is to use my gifts to the best of my abilities, to serve God and God’s people, and to empty myself.
If the result is misunderstanding, slander, or denigration, then so be it. It is really none of my business what other people think of me. If the result is tributes and recognition, then so be it. They are wonderful to receive and can still energize me, but they are not necessary for my self-worth.
The beatitudes are challenging. In our praise-driven society, I need to daily choose to be meek, lowly, and even imperfect.
Amy Florian is a teacher and consultant working in Chicago. For many years she partnered with the Passionists. See her website: http://www.amyflorian.com/.