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Inspiration for Today’s Devotional: “The Mysterious Mare Do Well”
When it comes to success in life, we’ve already discussed how jealousy comes along with it from others. However, there’s an opposite side to the equation: being what one might call a “sore winner”. It’s natural to have some pride in your own accomplishments, or to celebrate when you make a major achievement. After all, if it wasn’t an achievement, it wouldn’t be something worth celebrating.
In this episode, however, Rainbow Dash takes it way too far. Constantly holding public gatherings to boast about her accomplishments, milking her prowess and talent to as many ponies as possible, being shallow enough to get a writer to pen her own “autobiography”, and essentially looking for individuals to praise her at all times and occasions. She even gets to the point where she’s jealous of anyone else who gets more “face time” than her, and that jealousy get so bad that when the new celebrity in the limelight, “the Mysterious Mare Do Well”, actually rescues her, she’s upset only that she lost the chance to be the local hero again.
Probably at some point in our lives we’ve all run into someone who makes us think of Rainbow Dash in this episode. I know I did back in grade school sports. I was always the fat and slow kid so I never had to worry about showing any of the “real” athletes up, but there was constant taunting, cat calls, hype, and personal praise on the court from the more talented players. Everyone was always out to make themselves look like the best player on the team and show off the most. (By the way, our team was the biggest losing team the school had seen in years. :/) Half of my family is St. Louis Cardinals fans and the other half is Chicago Cubs fans. Well…you can guess how that gets, especially this year. Either side constantly insulting and taunting the other whenever they win. Maybe you know someone who never wants to hear about anyone else’s accomplishments or their family’s accomplishments…just goes on and on about what they and their own family are doing. Or maybe you know someone else who constantly flaunts their wealth and where they’ve been or what they’ve done knowing full well those around them can’t afford it.
Often, the case with people like this is the same case as it was for Rainbow Dash: insecurity and poor self-image. It’s been proven over the years that Rainbow Dash has rather low self esteem. She brags about her accomplishments, yes…but when faced with the reality of coming up short or missing the mark, she’s the first to get hard on herself. Back in “Sonic Rainboom” she constantly worried and fretted about how much she would mess up; having no faith in herself. Instead, she gets her self esteem from others praising her, which really isn’t self-esteem at all. Rather, she needs to constantly surround herself with the praise and acclaim of others to feel good about herself. Likewise, many people who suffer from a giant ego or too much self-praise feel insecure, uncertain around others, or unhappy with themselves; and the only way they can feel better is by pointing out what successes they do have constantly.
Yet as anyone who has ever dealt with this can attest to, this only holds up for so long. Most people quickly get bored, tired, or even irritated with an individual who only ever talks about how great they are and nothing else. Even if the individual is a success, no one wants to just hear about it all the time or have it constantly rubbed in their face, and eventually the source individual will find themselves more isolated and lonely than before.
As Christians, we are called to avoid pride and seek humility. James 4:6, “But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, ‘God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.’” Matthew 23:12, “Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.”
Jesus makes it very clear how much He prefers one who is humble to one who boasts of their own accomplishments in Luke 18:9-14, “He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”
Again, in Matthew 6:1-6, “Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”
I don’t think this is just an admonition to adopt a humble attitude; knowing how much of our lives are in God’s hands and beyond our control no matter how much power, prestige, or righteousness we accumulate. Nor do I feel it is simply a way of recalling that it’s not our own ability that saves us but rather that we live through the Grace of God. It’s also another call to maturity; to make us aware of how our own boasting and bragging can testify to our personal weakness and insecurity. Hence how in the parable of the Pharisee and tax collector, it was the one who admitted his own faults and sins that gained justification; and how in Jesus’ warning to be more “secretive” about doing good deeds we are being told to judge our own motives for doing good…whether we’re doing it for external praise or doing it because it pleases God.
The ability to show humility is a virtue that comes from a sound mind and spiritual life, and is a virtue our Lord exemplified well. In seeking more to imitate Him in our lives, it is a virtue we too should seek.
As a challenge for this devotional, perhaps we should stop to examine ourselves more seriously for any time we may be engaging in the sin of pride. I don’t know about you, but for me…while people may confess other sins or shortcomings they do, I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone admit “I’m too prideful” or “I’m not nearly humble enough”.
Suggested Prayer: “Lord God, you understand all of my motives and insecurities before I even profess them to you. I thank you for areas of my life you have enabled me to excel in and through any victories I have been able to rejoice in. Please confront me with any times or occasions I might be using these gifts and special occasions to cover up my own weaknesses and failings, and grant me the humility to admit them to you for forgiveness and healing. Please keep me from driving others away through my own pride or arrogance, but rather ‘humble myself’ so that I might be ‘exalted’. Gratefully in Jesus’s Name, Amen.”