Tall Poppy Syndrome

In Australia it is perceived as arrogance if you acknowledge that you’re good at something. Some people call it tall poppy syndrome, and it is many peoples mission to cut down the people who acknowledge their skills and talents. In Christian circles this becomes justifiable by pretending that our cruel comment is a ‘rebuke’ in order to keep someone humble. It isn’t done in love, but done because that is how culture tells us to react. Humility doesn’t mean denying any gifts God has given you. It means accrediting them to God, and praising God for them rather than praising yourself and asking your mirror if you’re the fairest of them all.

There are two sides to this coin. There are those who cut down, and those who refuse to believe that they have any worth because if they did, they would get cut down. Both, I think, are sinning.

Those who cut down are tearing others down. Beneath the lie that it is a rebuke, the true purpose is simply the high school motive of tearing someone down so you feel better about yourself. Point out someone else’s faults so you look awesome. Except, we’re called to love. And love, if you consult 1 Corinthians 13, involves a whole lot of things… one of which is kindness. Rebuke is one thing, but it can only be done in love. Being a jerk to other people isn’t something you can write off as rebuke. You’re not serving anyone but your own ego… and when I do it, neither am I. We need to stop tearing down and start building up.

The other side of the coin is the one that people notice less. I tend to fall into this trap a lot. Last year at one point I doubted my worth in a ministry, and my place in a team, because I spent all my time looking after one youth and it just didn’t make sense to me that my role mattered at that point. A friend rebuked me, in love, and told me that when I speak, I need to speak as if I’m communicating the very words of God (from 1 Peter, I think). Our gifts are from God. Do we deny gifts? Do we serve anyone by denying our gifts? No, we don’t. We merely downplay God’s awesome power in using us to proclaim His name. It’s less obvious. It’s easier to feel godly when you act this way, but… we’re not being more godly… we’re just denying God’s power.

Why do we do it? Why do we feel compelled to tear down? Why do we refuse to let God build up? Can we stop justifying it with culture? Please. I need to know. Am I alone in hating the way I do this?

God help us all, right?


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