Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. —1 Corinthians 13:4-6 ESV
We all love to be made much of. We like to be admired. We like it when people notice our successes and miss our failures. We like it when we hear people say nice things about us. But we don’t like it when people make fun of us or criticize us or laugh at us or humiliate us.
So we have developed strategies for minimizing our failures and maximizing our successes. We tend to draw attention to the one and cover over the other. There are crude ways of doing this like overt bragging and boasting and developing a certain cocky swagger or talking with a kind of devil-may-care conceit or an in-your-face kind of arrogance. In fact in America we have turned the vice of bragging into a virtue of entertainment.
But there are also more subtle, refined, acceptable ways of expressing our pride—like bringing the conversation back again and again to ourselves and what we’ve done, or even more subtly by constantly talking about our woundedness or our sadness, and about how badly things have gone for us. Self-pity and boasting are both forms of pride: one is pride in the heart of the weak, and the other is pride in the heart of the strong.
Now Paul says, “Love does not brag and is not arrogant.” That is, it does not speak much about itself and is not puffed up with its achievements or too concerned about its hurts. Love is other-directed, not self-consumed. Which means that a massive craving in our hearts must die, if we are going to love. We’re not puffed up because we decide to be. We are puffed up by fallen sinful human nature. This comes from deep within who we are as corrupt human beings. If love is humble and other-directed, love is death. The glory-loving, self-exalting, attention-seeking, whining, pouting, self-pitying me has to die.
This is why Jesus said, “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and die it remains alone”—[John 12:24–26] alone in its self-absorbed, self-asserting, self-enhancing prison—“but if it dies, it bears much fruit”