5 Signs You Glorify Self

It is important to recognize the harvest of self-glory in you and in your ministry. May God use this list to give you diagnostic wisdom. May he use it to expose your heart and to redirect your ministry.

Self-glory will cause you to:

1. Parade in public what should be kept in private.

The Pharisees live for us as a primary example. Because they saw their lives as glorious, they were quick to parade that glory before watching eyes. The more you think you’ve arrived and the less you see yourself as daily needing rescuing grace, the more you will tend to be self-referencing and self-congratulating. Because you are attentive to self-glory, you will work to get greater glory even when you aren’t aware that you’re doing it. You will tend to tell personal stories that make you the hero. You will find ways, in public settings, of talking about private acts of faith. Because you think you’re worthy of acclaim, you will seek the acclaim of others by finding ways to present yourself as “godly.”

I know most pastors reading this column will think they would never do this. But I am convinced there is a whole lot more “righteousness parading” in pastoral ministry than we would tend to think. It is one of the reasons I find pastors’ conferences, presbytery meetings, general assemblies, ministeriums, and church planting gatherings uncomfortable at times. Around the table after a session, these gatherings can degenerate into a pastoral ministry “spitting contest” where we are tempted to be less than honest about what’s really going on in our hearts and ministries. After celebrating the glory of the grace of the gospel there is way too much self-congratulatory glory taking by people who seem to need more acclaim than they deserve.

2. Be way too self-referencing.

We all know it, we’ve all seen it, we’ve all been uncomfortable with it, and we’ve all done it. Proud people tend to talk about themselves a lot. Proud people tend to like their opinions more than the opinions of others. Proud people think their stories are more interesting and engaging than others. Proud people think they know and understand more than others. Proud people think they’ve earned the right to be heard. Proud people, because they are basically proud of what they know and what they’ve done, talk a lot about both. Proud people don’t reference weakness. Proud people don’t talk about failure. Proud people don’t confess sin. So proud people are better at putting the spotlight on themselves than they are at shining the light of their stories and opinions on God’s glorious and utterly undeserved grace.

3. Talk when you should be quiet.

When you think you’ve arrived, you are quite proud of and confident in your opinions. You trust your opinions, so you are not as interested in the opinions of others as you should be. You will tend to want your thoughts, perspectives, and viewpoints to win the day in any given meeting or conversation. This means you will be way more comfortable than you should be with dominating a gathering with your talk. You will fail to see that in a multitude of counsel there is wisdom. You will fail to see the essential ministry of the body of Christ in your life. You will fail to recognize your bias and spiritual blindness. So you won’t come to meetings formal or informal with a personal sense of need for what others have to offer, and you will control the talk more than you should.

4. Be quiet when you should speak.

Self-glory can go the other way as well. Leaders who are too self-confident, who unwittingly attribute to themselves what could only have been accomplished by grace, often see meetings as a waste of time. Because they are proud, they are too independent, so meetings tend to be viewed as an irritating and unhelpful interruption of an already overburdened ministry schedule. Because of this they will either blow meetings off or tolerate the gathering, attempting to bring it to a close as quickly as possible. So they don’t throw their ideas out for consideration and evaluation because, frankly, they don’t think they need it. And when their ideas are on the table and being debated, they don’t jump into the fray, because they think that what they have opined or proposed simply doesn’t need to be defended. Self-glory will cause you to speak too much when you should listen and to feel no need to speak when you surely should.

5. Care too much about what people think about you.

When you have fallen into thinking that you’re something, you want people to recognize the something. Again, you see this in the Pharisees: personal assessments of self-glory always lead to glory-seeking behavior. People who think they have arrived can become all too aware of how others respond to them. Because you’re hyper-vigilant, watching the way the people in your ministry respond, you probably don’t even realize how you do things for self-acclaim.

Sadly, we often minister the gospel of Jesus Christ for the sake of our own glory, not for the glory of Christ or the redemption of the people under our care. I have done this. I have thought during the preparation for a sermon that a certain point, put a certain way, would win a detractor, and I have watched for certain people’s reactions as I have preached. In these moments, in the preaching and preparation of a sermon, I had forsaken my calling as the ambassador of the eternal glory of another for the purpose of my acquiring the temporary praise of men.

Next week we’ll look at five more signs the pursuit of self-glory shapes your ministry.

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  • http://aliencitizens.wordpress.com Cornell Ngare

    Guilty as charged.

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  • Traci Pakebusch

    So very true. Ouch – truth hurts.

  • Annie


    As always, you hold up the mirror of truth, and zing me every time. Maybe you could develop a device that would actually zing me when I walk away and forget what I’ve seen. That would be oh so helpful to my sanctification process. Maybe there is an app for that? Ha!

    Thank you for faithfully telling us the Truth in the meantime.

  • Kevin

    Mirror of truth indeed. Pride masks as many things, so we must be diligent in allowing it to have power.

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  • Robert

    I hope your not proud cause you made us hurt. lol

  • Tom Park

    Painful, true, and by God’s grace life changing. I need to print this out and read it weekly, maybe daily.


  • https://talmid1021.wordpress.com/ Talmid

    This is, indeed, a very convicting post. I am glad for it. Thank you. I was also blessed and challenged by your book, War of Words.
    But I have to tell you that I found it a bit ironically funny when I got to the end of the post and immediately read the gray block at the bottom–you know, the one that touts your accomplishments and so forth. :-)

  • http://chosenrebel.wordpress.com Marty Schoenleber

    Pride is the AIDS of the soul. Thanks Paul for a humbling and helpful article.

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  • http://www.tuesdaytheology.blogspot.com Tricia Johnson

    I’m not a pastor, but am a pastor’s wife. My husband is far more humble than I, but he is/we are victims of a set of deacons and their wives who thought of themselves more highly than they ought, effectively forcing us out of our church. The main problem is racism.

    This has caused me to become acutely aware of the dangers of self-promotion, self-referencing, etc. Living in a land of no grace extended to us because we stand with and for the minorities, we are undone.

    My one thought is that if we have a ministry, ought it be named after oneself? This is a common practice; it’s contrary to the advice given in this very article.

    But, I am a soldier at war spiritually, on the front lines; my thinking may not be as rational as others.

  • Broski

    Everyone glorifies themselves. Religion can be a pain. So what is the point of this article anyway…sure it raises awareness, but should I try not to glorify myself? Nah, it’s a waste of time, because I’ll never stop glorying myself even if I try. We glorify ourselves just by breathing, and whoever tells you they aren’t glorifying themselves hasn’t really looked into the mirror lately. I would go insane with despair and self-judgment if I always tried to stop myself from glorifying myself, so I think it’s best to let go, live and forget about it. Just be who you are, and if you “glorify yourself,” more power to you. God is too big to care about you supposedly “stealing” his glory from him. As long as you aren’t too selfish, you’re okay in my book. A little bit of pride is good for the soul. A man without pride is a wimp.

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  • http://bryanavillar.wordpress.com BryAna

    Very good post, I was convicted by a few of these points.

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  • http://www.thinkpoint.wordpress.com Steve Cornell

    The tension has long been between living out Matthew 5:16 without drifting into a violation of Matthew 6:1. It’s harder when you live in an ego-centered culture in which “human life degenerates into the clamor of competing autobiographies?” In such a culture, the self exists to be explored, indulged and expressed but not disciplined or restrained. What has changed is that, in much of contemporary American culture, aggressive self-regard is no longer viewed with alarm. Instead, people praise and promote it” (Plantinga).

    Yet, I agree that, “The opposite of humility as a virtue is not self-confidence, initiative, assertiveness, …. but instead pushiness, scorn of ‘inferiors,’ rejoicing in the downfall of others, envy, resentment and grudge-bearing….” (Robert Roberts).

    We always face the danger of extremes on these matters. While exposing pride, we can give way to a kind of prideful false humility. Some people are so humble they’re proud of it. Pretending to be humble isn’t the same as actually being humble. Pretentious humility is self-refuting. Those who use humility to seek out praise are perhaps the most proud. Humility doesn’t require one to continually engage in self-deprecation.

    Here is a word I always need:

    “Be strong and courageous” (1:6); “Be strong and very courageous” (1:7); “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged” (1:9); “Only be strong and courageous!” (1:18).

    • clint

      Good word

  • benny

    number one sign, im a person

  • http://www.SolaGratiaBlog.com Pete Scribner

    I’ll add a 6th point:

    After reading this post, have your mind immediately race to another pastor or pastors who perfectly fit the descriptions in points 1-5 as opposed to considering how they might be true of yourself.

    And once more, I am guilty.

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  • Eileen Arentz

    This is such an excellent article, well worth re-reading and prayerfully contemplating, so I decided to print it out. I had to chuckle when I clicked on ‘printer version’ and realized that the copy was accompanied by a large color picture of Paul Tripp…

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  • clint

    Guilty Lord Help me to see this in me and change me create in me a clean heart and renew a right relationship with you,wow is all I can say,what a wretch

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