Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Me and Bragging: The REAL Story

Years ago, I was a big fan of the Disney Channel sitcom That's So Raven, which starred The Cosby Show alumni Raven-Symoné as Raven Baxter, a teenage girl who often got visions of the future.  One of the early episodes had Raven getting a visit from her cousin Andrea, whose father was in the military; as a result, Andrea had lived in various countries in Europe, of which she constantly reminded Raven.  To fight fire with fire, Raven makes up stuff about her life, such as being head cheerleader and head of the volleyball squad, and that her friend Eddie is actually her significant other.  When the truth finally comes out, Andrea confesses that she overstated the positives about her life and even made some "details" up in an effort to impress Raven.  Whereas Raven thought Andrea had a better life, Andrea thought just the opposite; Andrea tells Raven that she would trade living in Rome and shopping in Paris for not having to constantly change homes and make new friends.  By the time the credits roll, they both learn the error of their ways and decide to make up and become friends.

Why do I bring that up? Simple: Humans have a tendency to be braggarts, especially when they want to impress others.  Some folks I've known have gone as far as making up achievements or exaggerating to the point of deceit to one-up somebody else.  Of course, there are times when you should want to impress others; a job interview, for example.  Though bragging and boasting has been around forever, it seems to have risen in recent years, with self-centric ways being on the rise, especially among people of my generation.  I'll admit that I'm not the most modest individual on the planet; I remember making a prayer request during a youth group meeting for a state-wide standardized test that was simply a knowledge exam.  When one of the other kids reminded me of that, I just said I wanted to do well so I "could have bragging rights." So, I was essentially asking God for a reason to boast; that's just not right.

However, some of what appears to be bragging really isn't.  Most of you who are on Facebook--whether you're my friend or just a random Internet user--probably have posted some happy news about your relationship.  Maybe you shared photos of you and your spouse's wedding, or maybe you celebrated a big anniversary; unless you're like me and never been in a serious relationship, you've most likely done it.  Did you do it as a slap in the face those who are sans significant other or have had marriages that ended in tragedy? Of course not; you did it because you wanted your friends and family to rejoice with you! Such a feeling is normal, even when it comes to matters other than romance; what about graduation parties or massive birthday celebrations? Those aren't meant to rub anything in anyone's face; they're meant to let those who care about you celebrate the occasion with you!

About 2.5 years ago, I went through a very stressful time, partly because of a lost library book that I was afraid I was going to have to shell out thirty bucks to replace.  Right at the last minute, I found it in a place that I should have thought to look early on, and was quite happy with my discovery.  When I posted about it on Facebook, a longtime friend commented, "Now you know the feeling expressed in the parable of the lost coin." I knew exactly what she was talking about; in Luke 15:8-9, Jesus says, "Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one.  Doesn't she light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, 'Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.'" I'm sure all of my friends who knew about the problem were happy that I'd found it, because they knew how stressed I was about it.

To me, that concept goes beyond finding lost items.  Most of you know that I'm an avid bargain hunter; I search garage sales, thrift stores, library sales, and used book and movie stores for good deals on entertainment.  At least once a week, I post a picture of my latest finds for my friends to see.  Am I doing it to rub it in anyone's face? No; I'm doing it because bargain hunting makes me happy, and I want my friends to share in my happiness! I know most of my friends don't shop like I do; they have jobs, families, classes, etc., that take precedence over finding deals on books and DVDs.  If they do find a good deal on something, it's because they were looking specifically for it, not because they randomly came across it.  Still, those who care about me know what I like, and, if I have a good day of bargain hunting, they'll be happy for me.

I also talked about other achievements as well...but, not for the purpose of bragging.  Some of you may remember when I had my picture in the paper--for something good, mind you--about three years ago, and mentioned it to nearly everyone.  Why did I do it? Was I trying to look and sound superior to everyone around me? Not at all. Here's the real reason why I did it: During my lifetime, I had many friends and acquaintances who were featured--not for anything wrong they did!--in the newspaper or on the local news.  It was everyone from fellow church members to classmates to even former fellow Boy Scouts.  After years of seeing that, one of the things on my "bucket list"--not that I actually have it written down anywhere--was to be featured in the local paper.  Of course, I wasn't going to do anything illegal; everyone knows that's not my style.  Still, I had a longtime desire to do it, and, when I saw a columnist's request on Facebook, I knew I had my chance.  I knew it didn't make me a better bargain hunter than anyone else; I was just happy that I fulfilled a dream of mine, and figured others would be, too...but, some people didn't see it that way.

So, here's my message to you: Anything I say--on Facebook, in person, or via any other medium--is not meant to rub anything in anyone's face, nor is it an attempt to feel superior.  If you're my friend, I would expect you to be happy for me when good things happen, even when it's something as simple as finding good deals at a garage sale.  Not only is that the friendly thing to do--even secular morality would say so--but it's also a Biblical commandment; check Romans 12:15 if you don't believe me.  My posts about such matters are not meant as bragging any more than your "big news" about engagements, marriages, graduations, or having children; just like you, I want my friends and family to share in my happiness.  I have never meant anything else by what I've said in recent years; those who have unfriended me because of such posts really weren't even my friends in the first place.

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