"...love does not boast and is not arrogant..."
1 Corinthians 13:4
I sat in the hospital waiting room, having promised a congregant I would be there praying for him and be with his family during his long surgery. The large room began filling with other people. Children were playing with toys. Men were desperately trying to find something a guy would want to read. Ladies were conversing with one another. And, of course, some were watching soap operas on the single TV.
After a while a young man walked in and, judging by the priest's collar and wedding ring, I surmised he was probably a clergyman from an Episcopal or Lutheran church. The actual denomination didn't really matter, but what did matter was the conversation I overheard for the next hour. Like me, he was there to bring comfort to the family waiting for a loved one during surgery. But over the next hour all I heard was this young man talk about himself. When the husband of the lady in surgery started to talk about how he feared he was going to lose his wife, the clergyman cut him off to tell a story about how he almost died in a car accident. When the adult daughter tried talking about how much her mother meant to her, the priest interrupted to claim he knew all about loss, only to tell a story about how his favorite dog died when he was a child. When an older woman (presumably the mother of the woman having surgery) began to weep, the priest looked over at her, then back to the husband and proceeded to tell a long and detailed account of a car he was restoring.
Telling stories about ourselves and engaging in generic conversation during times of crisis isn't necessarily wrong. In fact, sometimes it can be a great comfort and help take a grieving family's mind off the pain, even for a moment. But what I witnessed was a man who had not yet begun to understand biblical love. Paul tells us that "love does not boast and is not arrogant." In other words, the believer is not supposed to be the person who has become consumed or defined by the exhibition of self-importance. He or she isn't supposed to try to inflate their status or reputation.
The believer is supposed to be the person who cares very little about himself and very much about other people. To be honest, as I sat and listened to that young clergyman I didn't become filled with righteous indignation. I wasn't angry or offended by his behavior. Instead I was humbled. It caused me to sit back and reflect on many of my past conversations and wonder if this is what others heard when I talked.
A good way to gauge whether or not we are becoming boastful is by looking at the subject of our conversations. Are your conversations usually about yourself or do you instead show genuine interest in others?