Friday, June 08, 2012

Recognition is a Narcotic

Ever experienced being overlooked for a promotion? Ever seen how all the credit for your hard work and creativity, being stolen by your boss? Ever been in a situation where your so called well deserved recognition is non-existent? It hurts, right?

A) Mark of Honour?

We love recognition. Make sure it does not become our love.
Recognition is one of the most visible signs of honour and worthiness people give to certain individuals. Whether one wins an Olympic medal, or appears on public media, or given honorary accolades at a graduation ceremonies, recognition is a key driver of human achievement and pride. The hunger for recognition begins at a very young age. In the West, building self-esteem in young children is almost a given. Teachers regularly use superlatives like, "Fantastic! Great job! You deserve 5 stars!" when they praise the children in their care. Parents are also in the same camp, often praising their kids for the littlest amount of achievement. It seems like the parents have more to give than the kid's readiness to receive. All it takes is for the child to do something, or anything, and praises will be lavished upon them.

In school, watch how teachers hold up model pupils in order to "spur" others to improve. By recognizing individual achievements, many educators hope to encourage more students to continue to press harder and more diligently. Recognition helps. Recognition motivates. However, too much recognition is not a good thing. It breeds arrogance. It cultivates pride. It becomes an addiction.

B) Mark of Pride

Success, fame, and fortune are often ingredients that trigger the beginning of the end. I think of King Solomon, who started humbly, peaked early, but ended poorly. Having accumulated massive wealth, wisdom, knowledge, reputation, and of course, women companions, he eventually sowed the seeds of his own downfall as he fell victim to idolatry. This is perhaps one of the saddest stories of how a great potential fails to reach his full potential. Reason: Idolatry.

As Solomon grew old, his wives turned his heart after other gods, and his heart was not fully devoted to the Lord his God, as the heart of David his father had been. He followed Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, and Molech the detestable god of the Ammonites. So Solomon did evil in the eyes of the Lord; he did not follow the Lord completely, as David his father had done. (1 Kings 11:4-6) 

Recognition is a narcotic. Receive it once in a while, it can be encouraging and helpful. The moment it becomes an expectation, as one starts to crave recognition, it marks the beginning of idolatry through the most powerful sin of them all: Pride. Here is a list of ten pride test questions provided by Mark Driscoll, pastor of Mars Hill Church.
  1. Do you long for a lot of attention? 
  2. Do you become jealous or critical of people who succeed? 
  3. Do you always have to win? 
  4. Do you have a pattern of lying? 
  5. Do you have a hard time acknowledging you were wrong? 
  6. Do you have a lot of conflicts with other people? 
  7. Do you cut in line at the store, airport, on the freeway, etc.? 
  8. Do you get upset when people do not honour your achievements? 
  9. Do you tend more toward an attitude of entitlement or thankfulness? 
  10. Do you honestly feel you are basically a good person and superior to others? 

In this test, Driscoll asks that we call ourselves prideful if we score at least '1' Yes to the above ten questions. If anyone of us score '0' yes, then we are "very proud."  Driscoll is often more provocative than most people. Whether we like him or not is another point altogether. If we look at the ten questions carefully, we will soon realize that they all point to a certain manifestation of pride.

For example, craving for lots of attention is a form of wanting recognition. Being jealous of other people's achievements is envy that wishes we are recognized instead. The desire to win is simply because we will then be recognized with a prize. We lie often because we fear losing, and in the process losing recognition. And so on.

C) Mark to Beware

Recognition is a narcotic. The more we crave it, the more we become addicted to it. Unaddressed, the craving becomes more and more obsessive. It fills the mind. It grips the heart. It directs the whole person to seek recognition not for other's sake but for self's sake. As it increasingly puts one above others, it will soon challenge the authorities. The recognition addict can lead one toward something much worse. Recognition can stem the hunger a little while, but the crave will return. As self becomes more important than others, one begins to create a little god out of self, making wants into needs, non-essentials into essentials, taking what belongs to God, and calling it our rights.

Recognition is a narcotic. Beware. When we are recognized for whatever work we have done, adopt a state of humility. This is the best way to arrest any orientation toward the idolatry of self.

"So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.'" (Luke 17:10) 

Recognition can encourage. It can provided a much needed boost in self-esteem. That said, as much as we love recognition, make sure it does not become our love.

THOUGHT: "Don't worry when you are not recognized, but strive to be worthy of recognition."  (Abraham Lincoln)


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