In which I confront “conceit”

by Craig on January 11, 2012



Sharon from Hiking Toward Home once gave me this glistening gem…

“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you…we like to be comforted and encouraged don’t we? And aren’t we His vessels through which He works down here on this wad of dirt? “

Such wisdom.
Such good advice.

I’m seeing now, maybe for the first time ever…
after 27 years of Christianity…
and graduating from seminary…
(such a slow learner)…
this interconnectedness we all have as “holy ones” (PHP 1:1)…
this “cloud of witnesses” we are…
to each other…past present and future. (HEB 12:1)

that which I’ve been seeking hard in this last month or so…
that which I’ve gained, in part, by being humiliated…


listening to wisdom, like that given by Sharon…
that’s about to become a vital step.

I’ve been guided in my search for humility by the thousand year old words of Bernard of Clairvaux – his twelve steps of pride. Step number six he calls “Conceit”. (By the way, step one is here, and two is here, three here, four here, and five…in case you want to peek)

And his sixth step, which he calls “conceit”, is a particular brand of it.
It’s accepting all the flattering words…


…and ignoring the critical ones.

I think humility leaves room for accepting kind words spoken in love…
discerning between that and the flattery used to gain favor…
or to present the appearance of “polite”.

This requires a wisdom I still have yet to develop.

After all, one of the ways we build each other up is to, in effect, “flatter” each other.
Like Sharon wrote to me, “we like to be comforted and encouraged”.

And we should comfort and encourage each other. (1THES 5:5)

Flattering words have two sides…one light…one dark
like so much in this broken world…good…but subject to twisting…
and my response to them also has two sides.


I can’t hear the good things people say.
I dismiss them, and refuse them…
and refuse to be “comforted and encouraged”.


I cling to them like wet cloth on skin…
listen too closely to those words…
and dismiss all positive criticism.

Both may be a brand of conceit.

I’m a mess. No?


I need to be about fixing this mess.

I’m going to confront this sixth step of Bernard’s twelve — head. on.

I’m going to do it by going through the wisdom I’ve received from you all…your words in my comment section.

I heart my comment section.

There’s wisdom in there.

I’m going to reverse my downward trend of pride…

by looking back…

and learning…

from you.

This might take a while…

I have lots to learn…

Please come back.

{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

Nacole January 11, 2012 at 10:54 am


you mean im the first to comment? (well at least i was the first to click, but you know me, by the time i finish the comment i may come in 25th) im always behind on reading. i guess im feeling better this week, feeling more open and available emotionally to be able to take in more, and so im soaking up and gleaning all i can.

i have a VERY hard time accepting the words of criticism, but i like words of flattery, when they are genuine. i have come to dislike words of flattery only for the surface effect, because i am incapable of surface talk and relationship. i recognize it more now when people are doing this to me, when they are incapable of being real with me and really sharing their heart and it causes me to distrust. the Word does say for us to be harmless as a dove and wise as a serpent. when women hit me with the “oh you look good today!” i humbly thank them and tell them the same, and i mean it, but i try to mix in a little realness and warmth by asking how they have been lately or if a certain situation i know of has improved, and i will remind myself and them that i will be praying. this is not something that i have perfected, but something i am working on. i have learned that conversation cant center around me, although that may make me more comfortable to talk about myself the entire time–that way i dont have to fear what they may say or if they reject me when i ask questions. but, i have learned that people are far more ready to be real once i go out on the limb first, and this requires humility with a lot of risk. please dont think me arrived in great humility…it is quite the opposite. i have only begun to learn this about myself in the past year and i have much more to learn. i am like the bird in its cage, that sung so happily until it was sucked up, rinsed off, and blown dry, and then it didnt sing anymore–it just stared off into space, sort of dazed. that has been my year, and God has taught me much through this. i hope to become as my Christ–truly a servant with the gentlest and boldest spirit with which to love fully and powerfully.

blessings my dear friend


Craig January 11, 2012 at 2:03 pm

Nacole, so you’re learning to tell the difference – and how to respond better – good to know I’m not alone ツI heart your plan. and your bird metaphor – at least I hope it’s a metaphor – I’m assuming it gets sucked up by a vacuum cleaner? Need clarification please and thank you ツ I think I get the metaphor – I think I’ve been the metaphor – just can’t tell until you give me a little help. God bless you My Dear Friend.


Nacole January 23, 2012 at 8:40 pm

haha! “i think i get the metaphor–i think ive been the metaphor”–ha ha!!!!

yes, its a metaphor and yes the poor bird got sucked up by a vacuum cleaner!

i borrowed the story from my pastor. im thinking of using it for a post, with a scripture from Song of Songs about it being the year of singing. BUT i would not mind at all you using it also. i would love to see how you turn it. im sure we would use it in totally different ways!


Nacole January 11, 2012 at 10:58 am

oh! LOVE the accept/reject switch! that one made me laugh! always love your pictures.


Craig January 11, 2012 at 2:05 pm

thank you for saying that about my pictures – I sometimes search for the perfect pictures as as long as it takes me to write a post – and it takes me a while to write a post. I heart pictures! Thank you Nacole, God bless you.


Cora January 11, 2012 at 1:04 pm

I like that switch, too. If only it were that easy!!! Why does it have to come with all the emotional baggage, no matter which way we push the switch??? It’s amazing what the heart can do in the split second of deciding how to answer a compliment or criticism. Mine goes all over the place — did they really mean it?, how should I answer, should I just accept it?, No, then I look proud and snobby?, but yes, I can sound humble and say thank you, and what if I just say, that’s a lie and you are just buttering me up for something!!!??? All in a flash, and we wonder where our hearts really are. Mine is somewhere, hidden in that scribbled mess of the last picture.

Encouragement or flattery? The first is honest, not inflated, and meant to build up and move the other person forward. The second borders on dishonest, usually well inflated, and meant to build up the person giving the flattery. Wisdom is knowing the difference and knowing what to do with it. Those who have the gift of encouragement just know how to do it. Sometimes it comes as a kick in the pants, other times it’s a hug or an arm around the shoulder or a pat on the back, but most often it is words — words that build up and meant to move this person further along the right path. The only trouble is, words are filtered by the recipient through life experiences, hurts, disappointments, and walls that have been built as defenses, and they don’t always hear what you say. They hear the filtered verson, usually with those snorts and grunts from those horses standing over the shoulder telling us it’s all a lie.

If God meant for there to be those who encourage us, then the reverse side of the coin is true that we are meant to accept the encouragement and be built up by it. Oh, my, I am definitely preaching to myself here. Craig, you are an encourager, for sure. All your teaching, your sharing of your inner self comes with a big dose of pushing us closer to the Lord, pushing us to change a little bit more, and to be the best we can be. Accept that as the
gift God has given you and when someone thanks you for that and expresses appreciation for it, look at it as a confirmation that you are doing what He wants you to do, that you have a purpose in life, and that the ripple effect is working!


Craig January 11, 2012 at 2:13 pm

Cora, I get that thinking that goes on in your head – I do it myself – I think a lot of your responses are good – although I might steer clear of “that’s a lie and you are just buttering me up” Just sayin ツ and Cora, really good point about encouragement being filtered by the receiver of the words. Good point! Those darn horses! And Cora – today, just today, because I’m still a work in progress, I accept your kind words – I accept them is true, I accept them as given in love, and you know what – that kind of feels nice. ツI’ll keep working on it, God bless you Cora.


Caddo Veil January 11, 2012 at 1:07 pm

I will definitely have to come back, because this is a lot to take in and chew over–but thank you in advance for the excellent word!! God bless you richly today!


Craig January 11, 2012 at 2:15 pm

Caddo, these 12 steps of Bernard of Clairvaux are a revelation – and not very many people know about them – thank you for reading, thank you for coming back – in advance – and God bless you too. Oh, and I’ll be at your blog in just a minute or two – just thought I’d give you the heads up ツ


Martha Orlando January 12, 2012 at 4:24 pm

We are all, every single one of us, “a mess”, but none are too messy for Jesus. He is there to clean up our act; that’s what He wants for all of us.
And, we all need comfort and encouragement. But, your words are so wise as to how we sometimes reject these, feeling unworthy, or cling too closely to bolster our egos.
As always, Craig, what amazing insights you’ve shared. Can’t wait for more!
Blessings to you!


Craig January 16, 2012 at 1:18 pm

Martha, I just noticed that by mistake I “responded” to your comment with another comment – and not a reply – so you may not have seen this – I fixed the problem – My response was…

I think I’ve come to the conclusion that a person who has made a lot of mistakes in life – and mistakes and faith – but knows the grace of God – well – that person has more opportunity to gain insight. I’ve made a lot of mistakes – and probably thus the insight – that, plus God speaks to people who don’t deserve it – I don’t – and he does ツI heart that! God bless you Martha.

there – I feel better now. ツ


Martha Orlando January 16, 2012 at 4:51 pm

No need to feel bad in the first place! :)


Debbie January 15, 2012 at 11:04 am

I heart learning Craig, and you make learning fun here. :) God bless you and all you share with us along the way!


Craig January 16, 2012 at 1:20 pm

Debbie, again – I’m sorry for replying so late. Where does the time go? Anyway, thank you my friend – and God bless you as always!


Sylvia January 16, 2012 at 10:34 am

Hi Craig,
Been sick, so a little late getting back here. On first reading of this and your other blog’s post, I was left with too much to sort out to say anything! How aware the last few years have made me that the flatterer is also the slanderer, as I now see the Bible itself clearly warns repeatedly. How to tell the diff? There’s a challenge! Often only after the fact (/the slander), although some flatterers are phony enough to be obvious.

Anyhow, I finally stopped puzzling over this, realizing what I need to focus on more is my own inner response to praise or criticism, false *or* genuine. Sometimes a compliment evokes a sudden upward surge inside — which I must recognize immediately as pride, or at least man-pleasing, and stifle it, crying out to God for forgiveness and help! I’m not kidding. John 5:44 now often rebukes me, and the response itself now *scares* me! I’m so glad I’ve gotten to that point of being scared. I should be. That surge is a loud warning that I’m ready prey for either the snare-laying flatterer or my own ensnaring pride.
And often sharp criticism wilts me into discouragement. This can be just as bad if it blocks me from doing what God wants me to do. I guess the answer lies in getting more and more sensitive to God’s evaluation and leading, through or despite human “feedback” — another enormous challenge!
Thanks for this thought provoking study! I’m always left pondering, and looking forward to the next installment. (And that’s genuine! 😉 )


Craig January 16, 2012 at 1:24 pm

Sylvia, what you write – it’s so true – there is such a fine line between the “building up” that we should accept from others with pure motives – or at least as pure as humans get – and the false “puffing up” that we’re also prone to – such a fine line – all the more reason to stay close to the one who knows all of the lines I guess. You put it all so well Sylvia – thank you! And, by the way, that’s genuine too ツ God bless and keep you my friend.


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