Vainglory vs Humility

March 22, 2022

By Gina Padilla

Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines vainglory as: excessive or ostentatious pride especially in one’s achievements. Social media is a living monument to vainglory which constantly screams like an attention-seeking four-year-old: “Look at me! Look at me! Look at me!” 

Humility, on the other hand, is rarely discussed and seldom seen in our self-obsessed social media pages.

To be honest, I never had a good understanding of humility most of my life. I knew that Jesus was humble. He went around healing people and hanging out with the poor and downtrodden, so I thought to be humble you had to give away everything you had and live like Jesus.

Then I read Rick Warren’s quote, “Humility is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less.”

That really struck a chord with me. Is it possible in this vainglorious culture to think of yourself less? The internet has brought the world into our pockets. In an instant we can share our videos, pictures, and opinions about anything with hundreds, thousands, or millions if by chance we go “viral.” We are constantly checking our feed, monitoring likes, forwards and holding our breath in anticipation of “trending.”

Since our fallen world is run by the prince of vainglory himself, satan (I don’t capitalize his name purposely), it’s no surprise that pride — the exact opposite of humility — is what is lauded today. You only need to look at billboards, television, and social media feeds to see what society values. We’re bombarded with the beautiful, wealthy, powerful, and successful, but rarely, if ever, do we see the humble.

As I was thinking about this God brought to my mind a memory from when I was in college. I was a sports reporter for the Oakland Post at Oakland University (go Pioneers! — the Golden Grizzlies didn’t exist yet!) At every game, there was an older man who was always there cheering. It didn’t matter if it was men’s basketball or women’s volleyball, he was there supporting OU.

My editor had asked me to do a story about him. I eagerly approached him after a game one day and figured he’d be excited to talk as most people are. He quietly deferred and said he would have to pray about it before he could talk to me. My arrogant, know-it-all, 20-something self was appalled. My thoughts, I’m sorry to say something like this: “Pray about it? What could he possibly be praying for? Why would he have to pray about something so trivial as doing an article for the school newspaper? How ridiculous!”

Obviously, I was not a good Christian at this time or even a nice person. I thought Jesus was someone you called on only for the big stuff like cancer or heart attacks, not for a school newspaper article. I told all this to my editor, rolling my eyes. I talked to the man a few days later and he said he prayed about it and didn’t feel comfortable doing it. Shaking my head, I wrote off the guy as a “God-freak” not understanding why he refused. 

I think I do now. 

Praying for God’s guidance is not weakness, it’s living in submission to God which is what we are called to do once we are saved. Christ should be living through us.

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!”

2 Corinthians 5:17 NIV

The man who refused to do the story didn’t want the focus to be on him. He was focused on God and wanted his focus to remain on God, not himself. He may have seen the article as a way to bring attention and glory to himself instead of bringing attention and glory to His Creator. It was a good lesson on humility that I totally missed. If I had any sense back then, I would have asked him to talk to me about his faith. But I didn’t have any sense back then, so here I am 30 years later still trying to figure this out. Praise the Lord for His patience and mercy!

Before we post that selfie, send that tweet, text, comment, or Instagram post we need to ask ourselves if we are serving ourselves or God? And if the answer is ourselves, we should follow the example of that humble OU fan and just say “no.”

“This is what the Lord says:

‘Let not the wise boast of their wisdom
or the strong boast of their strength
or the rich boast of their riches
but let the one who boasts boast about this:
that they have the understanding to know me,
that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness,
justice and righteousness on earth,
for in these I delight,’
declares the Lord.”

Jerimiah 9:23-24 NIV

Photo Credit: Amaury Gutierrez

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  1. Dave VanEpps says:

    That’s great, Gina! I love how you didn’t capitalize satan and then how you shared your reason why. What a great story about humility. Thanks for sharing!

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