Thursday, April 28, 2016

One-Upping and The Gospel of Grace

My friend Carolyn
Welcome to a special Echoes of Grace. My friend Carolyn Eden and I collaborated on this post.Thank you Carolyn.

And thank you to Julie Breuninger and her words in Velvet Ashes on one-up-man-ship that stretched my understanding of this concept. 

Our words were friendly enough.
The conversation flowed easily - perhaps too easily.
It was subtle; not until I left and thought about it did I realize the one-upping.

An opportunity to affirm turned to competition. Woe to me!

(Not the real conversation, but similar. You'll get the gist).
Hey Carolyn, thank you for dropping this off at church for me today.
No problem. I'm going to an important leadership meeting anyway.
I'd do it myself, but I need to bring lunch to Sandy.
I'm busy too. My year end Bible study brunch is this week. Twelve ladies is a squeeze even in my dining room.
Oh, and I was asked to help with a reception at church on Saturday. It was already a full weekend, but ...
We're hosting a missionary couple who are coming to town. They always stay with us. Clean the guest room again!

One-up-man-ship - the art or practice of outdoing or keeping one step ahead
of a friend or competitor. 
Do you see what is happening in the above exchange? We both are set on being the important one. The conversation overflowed with one-upping. We were not trusting Proverbs 11:25, "Whoever brings blessing will be enriched, and one who waters will himself be watered." When I bless, God is able to enrich. One-upping not necessary.

This imaginary conversation could have been true. Both of us are committed to our friends and our local church. Both of us have strengths in hospitality and keep our guest rooms ready and clean towels in the bathroom.

Because we have much in common, we are more susceptible to one-upping.

Stewarding our gifting in serving ... even with words ...  is living God's grace. Thank you Peter for that reminder. I Peter 4:10.

Instead the conversation highlighted our insecurities. We spoke as though our involvements equaled our significance. NOT TRUE!

We needed  to cast our gaze on God to affirm our significance, the very significance he created in us, but we were silently begging the other to notice and affirm. BAD IDEA!

The unspoken desire actually accomplished the opposite - igniting the neediness of the other.

Paul reminds of the words of Jesus, "It is more blessed to give than to receive."  Acts 20:35. Most often I hear this reminder in terms of monetary giving. But could it not also refer to the giving of words of blessing and encouragement?
We don't need to one-up to prove our worthiness
or highlight our significance.
We were significant enough for Jesus to go to the cross for us.

And because of the cross, "Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand ..." Romans 5:2. 

"When I am living in God's grace,
I receive all the validation I need from Him."
Julie Breuninger 

Our listening was thwarted. Instead of blessing the serving of the other, we felt the need to insert ourselves into the story and be the important one.

We were acting as though our reputation was at stake in our doings. 

Our reputation is God's responsibility. Our part is to live out who God created us to be. Perhaps we were doing that with our serving and our hospitality. But the emphasis in our words highlighted the one-upping.

Do you hear the pride? Reading even the pretend responses was mortifying!

God exhorts through Peter to humble ourselves and allow Him to exalt. Never are we called to exalt ourselves. I Peter 5:8. One-upping is exalting self.

"If you want to really experience the flow of love as never before,
the next time you are in a competitive situation,
pray that the other around you will be more outstanding, more praised, and
more used of God than yourself."
Dallas Willard

"Grace liberates us to serve one another without the burden of competitiveness."
Julie Breuninger 

"Therefore encourage one another and build one another up ..."
I Thessalonians 5:11

"Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, 
but in humility count others more significant than yourselves."
Philippians 2:3 

When do you find yourself vulnerable to one-upping?
What helps you experience God meeting your significance needs?
What does living in the environment of grace look like for you?


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