Recently, I got in my car and noticed that my gas tank was full. I noticed this immediately because my gas tank is never full. I absolutely hate to stop for gas, so I avoid it at all costs. That usually leads to me coasting around town on empty with a digital reading of “0 miles to empty.” (Don’t worry, it’s just kidding. I can go a good 20 miles after that.)
Anyway, after noticing that my gas tank was full, I also noticed that my car had been vacuumed out and the front hood seemed to be sparking clean. Apparently when my husband took my car out to get dog food the night before, he also stopped for gas, took my car through the car wash, and vacuumed it out.
What’s amazing about that to me is not that he did those things. It was incredibly thoughtful and I appreciated it very much, but that’s not what got me. What I was so impressed with was that he never told me about it.
He came into the house the night before with the giant 50-pound bag of dog food thrown over his shoulder and went on about his night without ever saying a word.
And this wasn’t the first time. He does stuff like this all of the time and never even mentions it. How? How does he do that?
If I even so much as fold the bath towels, the moment he walks in the door, I point it out immediately. “Hey, I folded the towels! Hey, how about that. I mean . . . thank goodness we all have clean, folded towels now—thanks to me of course.”
I’ve gotten better about this through the years from watching and learning from my husband’s incredibly humble example in my life, but I’ll be honest, it’s still a struggle. When I contribute something, I need to be recognized. When I go out of my way for someone, I like to be thanked. When I accomplish something, I always want credit for it.
That’s not a bad thing of course. It’s a natural reaction to desire that. But the problem occurs when we depend on being recognized in order to be happy with what we achieved.
When we do this, we put the power for our satisfaction in the other person’s hands when it belongs in ours.
My wise husband said once to me, “Don’t do it for the credit. Don’t do it because someone notices. Do it and feel proud within yourself because you know what you did, and that’s enough.”
Oh, I don’t do it for the credit, I think. I just want to be thanked when I do something for someone because I want to make sure that they were happy about it. If I never hear from them, then I am not sure that it accomplished what I wanted it to—which was just to make them happy, of course.
No, y’all. No.
I may think, say and actually believe that I do it for the other person or for the end results, but my reaction usually tells on me. Because if or when I don’t receive recognition for my accomplishment, I’m often disappointed. That’s embarrassing to admit, but it’s also painfully honest.
The truth is that I want to be thanked and recognized not to ensure the other person was happy but to fill some need in me.
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And the reality is that the need to get credit and be recognized is a bottomless pit. No amount of words or recognition is ever enough. It’s like a drug. That’s why so many people are addicted to people-pleasing—not because they like pleasing the actual people, but because it makes them feel good about themselves.
I know this because I do it too.
But we have to remember that God calls us to be humble at heart, to not seek recognition and to not draw attention to ourselves.
One of the best ways to do that is by letting go of the need to get credit. It’s truly doing things expecting nothing in return—not even a thank you. Then if you do get recognized or thanked, it’s a bonus and not a mantle you hang your happiness on.
It is, as my husband wisely said, “feeling proud of yourself because you know what you did, and that’s enough.”