Social Media and the Subtle Brag

 No mature Christian would say it is okay to brag about oneself.  We know from Scripture that pride is a terrible sin; in fact, the child of God should hate pride and arrogance (Prov. 8:13). Paul even mentions bragging and boasting among those heinous sins in Romans 1:30.  The Christian knows he or she should not go around bragging about themselves, their fortunes, their fame, their family, or their figure (to name just a few).  If someone in a room of 100 people would hold up a big sign that said, “I ran a marathon yesterday and am totally sore today!” or “I’m learning how to roast my own coffee beans,” we’d most likely think it odd and boastful.   Drawing attention to oneself like that can also be called a form of pride.

Social media does have some positives.  However, one negative is that it has made the subtle brag common and acceptable.  Quite often on social media people point out things they have done or are doing.  They post pictures of themselves after a marathon, they put up a photo of themselves struggling to cross a rushing river, and they let everyone know they just experienced fifteen minutes of fame somehow.  Or they post (a humble brag) about something funny that happened to them (which also happens to make them look good).  Many people do this: moms, dads, teens, pastors, teachers, students, and so on.  One effect of these types of posts is that it makes other people jealous or envious.  These posts are also not accurate because they only display a fraction of a person’s life: few people post about their truly embarrassing failures, dark sins, and ugly parts of their lives.  Again, I don’t think social media is bad in and of itself, but I do think one weakness of social media is that it has made the subtle brag acceptable; actually, it might reveal the weakness of humans more!

I appreciate what John Newton said about pride and arrogance in his “Review of Ecclesiastical History”:

“A desire of pre-eminence and distinction is very unsuitable to the followers of Jesus, who made himself the servant of all; very unbecoming the best of the children of men, who owe their breath to the mercy of God, have nothing that they can call their own, and have been unfaithful in the improvement of every talent.  We allow that every appearance of this is a blemish in the Christian character, especially in the Christian minister….”

There’s more to discuss, for sure, but those are good words to ponder as we consider what to post on social media and what not to post!

The above quote is found on page 67 of volume three of John Newton’s Works.

Shane Lems
Hammond, WI, 54015


4 comments on “Social Media and the Subtle Brag

  1. rick gimpel says:

    This is a tough one. Every post could be skewed/interpreted as braggadocious. If I catch a fish and post the picture, that’s bragging. If my kids participate in some activity and I post it, that’s bragging. Even if I post something orthodox about the gospel, that’s bragging (“I’m saved and you’re not”). In fact, even this blog could be considered bragging. Where do you draw the line? We are relational, social creatures and we want to be in community with our friends and loved ones, many of whom live a great distance from us and get joy from seeing such “boastful” posts.
    We are also called to be humble and prefer others over ourselves. Yet, if we take that to its logical conclusion, none of us would ever seek employment or a pastoral commission because in doing so we are “beating out” someone else for the job. We are putting ourselves and our desires over others.
    I hear what you’re saying. It is abused and we must “proceed with caution” as humble followers of Christ, but “boastful” social posts are a bit different than “boastful” proclamations about ones achievements over the pulpit–that should be strictly forbidden.

    • Hey Rick – good to hear from you! You’re right – it is a tough issue, and, as I said, can be discussed more. Thanks for the comments. Another thing to think about is motives – why people post what they do -what is the motive behind it? To show off? Or not? And speaking of fish, maybe we can discuss it while we fish. If the ice would just melt!

      • grh says:

        Excellent and much needed caution for today’s day and age! Reminds me of Paul’s words in both 1 Cor 2:1-5 and Gal 6:13-16…

  2. […] Orthodox Presbyterian Church and serves as pastor of Covenant Presbyterian Church in Hammond, Wis. This article appeared on his blog and is used with […]

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