Grace Notes, by Nancy Kennedy
One of my favorite stories is the one where my friend Mike announced that he had given up pride for Lent.
He was so proud of his decision, couldn’t wait to start. Just knew he’d nail it.
That was about seven or so years ago and we still laugh about it.
Last week my daughter Alison sent me a Wall Street Journal article about boasting. No, it wasn’t a hidden message from her. I had posted on Facebook that I was looking for input for a story I was writing about Facebook etiquette, and this WSJ story talked about Facebook users who are constantly boasting about their fabulousness.
The article writer, Elizabeth Bernstein, said boasting is epidemic on the Internet and that more and more people are “carefully stage managing their online image.”
It’s like a 24/7 Christmas letter. You know the ones that are filled with only news of vacations, promotions, purchases and achievements.
The best Christmas letter I ever got was from a friend who noted the family’s struggles as well as blessings. In other words, it wasn’t a PR piece. It was honest — and endearing.
In the WSJ article, Bernstein wrote that we’ve become so accustomed to boasting and bragging that we don’t even realize what we’re doing. “And it’s harmful to our relationships because it turns people off,” she wrote.
She went on to say that people brag: to appear worthy of attention or love, or as an attempt to cover up deep insecurities — “to prove to ourselves that we’re OK, that people from our past who said we wouldn’t measure up were wrong.”
She also mentioned a group of Harvard neuroscientists who conducted a series of experiments testing the reward areas of the brain. They found that when people talk about themselves, it triggers the same pleasurable sensations in the brain as food, sex and money do.
The research didn’t focus on boasting per se, but on talking about oneself.
Bernstein said that there is a place for talking about oneself to share information. After all, that’s a vital part of relationships.
Bragging or boasting, however, involves comparison, whether stated or implied.
As I read the WSJ story, I sat smugly self-satisfied that *I* wasn’t guilty of boasting on Facebook.
And then God sort of nudged me to read over some of my past posts.
With horror and humiliation, I reluctantly share them with you:
“We had to put Little White to sleep today. (It’s a truck, not a dog.) So, we are sad. But happy days are coming — with the arrival of a new Ford Fusion.” (Translation: “I’m getting a new car, y’all!”)
“So, as I was saying to Nick Cannon today … By the way, he says Mariah and the babies are ‘doing wonderful, thanks for asking.’” (Translation: “I just met a celebrity — and you didn’t.”)
“It’s actually pretty pathetic how excited I am to be Employee of the Month.” (Translation: “I’m Employee of the Month — and you’re not.”)
You get the picture.
Sadly, my love of boasting, which I prefer to call “sharing of pertinent information” since that makes me look better, isn’t confined to just my Facebook status updates. It permeates my conversations and my thoughts.
I’m forever promoting me, me, me.
It’s actually the thing I do best! If only I could find a way to make money at it, I could be rich. Then I’d really have something worth posting on Facebook.
One thing I’ve learned over the years: God frowns upon boasting of any kind, even (maybe especially) silent “in your heart” boasting.
It’s easy to spot it in others. Not so easy to see it in myself.
When it comes to boasting, there’s a fine line separating it from simply sharing good news with others.
I think it has to do with knowing where the source of your good news and blessings come from, mixed with the humility to know that none of us deserve any of it.
If we ever got what we deserve, we’d all be fried toast.
The Bible says, “Love does not boast,” but I boast all the time. Ironically, it’s one of the things I hate in others.
So, my prayer is that I would come to hate it in myself as much or more than I do in others. I’ll be sure to post it on Facebook when that happens.
Nancy Kennedy is the author of “Move Over, Victoria - I Know the Real Secret,” “Girl on a Swing,” and her latest book, “Lipstick Grace.” She can be reached at( 352) 564-2927, Monday through Thursday, or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.