COLUMN: Don’t brag (but I wonder)

Published 8:24 pm Monday, June 5, 2023

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They say you’re not supposed to brag, and for all the right reasons. Whoever they are, that is. The sources of our societal norms are often difficult to trace. Some things come along and evolve to a tacit acceptance right before our eyes.

But this ubiquitous “they” surely must be the same people who insist you not wear pastel colors before Easter nor white pants after Labor Day. As a cousin to the admonition to not brag, the same people rightly say that we also shouldn’t drop names.

So on social media, if you post your vacation photos, someone could consider you to be bragging. If you meet a celebrity these days, a selfie with them is also considered bragging. If you get a job promotion, you’re not supposed to post that news because someone else might be out of work. Or, it might be called bragging.

Here’s what I’ve noticed. If you’ve got healthy relationships, those friends and family members want to cheer for you just as badly as they themselves want to succeed. If you have a friend who won’t be happy along with you, you need better friends. The fact that on social media your list of connected people is called a “friends list” is a bit ironic if they don’t support you.

For every hilarious reason, and in complete good spirit, members of our local Rotary club can be fined $1 for extolling the virtues of their now grown up kids at our meetings. It’s always funny and expected when that happens. Or, you can be fined that same dollar for sharing the news of a great report card your grandchild earned. Because that’s considered “bragging” in the fun club environment we have.

In reality, at my Rotary, we revel with each and every story one tells about their kids, their spouses and their extended families. The dollar fine is all in fun, and it doesn’t inhibit anyone. We want to hear about the good things in each other’s lives. Why? Because that’s what true friends do. We may call it bragging, but we don’t really regard it as such. We want to celebrate each other’s happiness and victories.

Mark 12: 30-31 records Jesus famously saying that the greatest commandment was to Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”

If I am consistently incapable of loving my neighbor as myself, I might need to wonder how much I truly love God. Made in God’s image, a healthy me doesn’t need for others to be kept down in order for me to be okay.

I have to wonder why folks have decided that we’ve got to live in relatively false modesty in order to not break some of these recent social rules? If I am fortunate to be a part of your life, I want to hear about your new car or your recent advancement.

I grew up comfortable, but in my small hometown we certainly weren’t among the wealthy. Not even close. Still, jealousy or envy has never been something I struggled with. I couldn’t say why, but those have just never been among my issues.

Why does any of this matter? Because in healthy relationships we can see beyond our own selves. In healthy relationships, people other than me matter. If you are a person of faith, that call to love your neighbor as yourself is a serious one.

Our world was not set up by the Creator for braggarts to run rampant. Don’t be silly in how you hear me today. Instead, it was set up for us to encourage and invest in one another. Our world was set up so that we might neither suffer, nor celebrate, alone in silence. Creation was set in motion in great part so that humans might enjoy healthy community.

When someone tells me about a success in their business world, I want to hear more. If someone has seen a part of the world that I’ve never traveled to, I lean in. I’m the guy who would look at their three hundred photos if that’s how many they put on social media. I don’t call those things bragging. I want to hear more, and I am happy for them. If someone says you’re bragging, you may want to take a fresh look at your friendship.

Dr. Charles Qualls is senior pastor at Franklin Baptist Church. Contact him at 757-562-5135.