Dealing with Braggards Nicely

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We all have that one friend or relative—the one who just has to “casually” reference the BIG raise $$$ he got again and again and again. Or the one who won an iPad in a raffle and now she can’t stop showing it to you as if it’s the Hope diamond. Or the one who always finds a way to mention in conversation how he runs a marathon every year. In fact, I have an in-law relative who constantly, daily brags about their tennis game to the point of annoyance. A braggard can’t stop talking about themselves. “How do we deal with these people nicely, as Christians?”
 
Whether these people worked hard for their successes or just got lucky, their bragging is annoying either way. In addition to being irritating to listen to, braggarts can make you feel inadequate. It makes you want to cover your ears and say, “I get it! You’re special, and I’m not!”
 
So, short of insulting and/or avoiding these people, how can we stop them from getting under our skin? 
 
All of these people have the same bragging syndrome which is spoken of so often in the Bible as a sin.
 
(Proverbs 27:1) states, “Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring.”
 
(Galatians 6:14) states, “But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.”
 
All of us should remember that it is not by our own power that we gain rewards on earth, but by the grace of Christ. No matter how much money we have, how great our talents or how much we feel Christ needs us to show other humans how they should live, ultimately we are all fallible and all fall short of what Christians are called to do and be.
 
“So why do we brag and what is the difference between sharing something we are excited about, and making someone else feel less than ourselves?”
 
Is it okay to post on your Facebook page, “yay, I aced my math test,” or “just got a huge promotion at work” or, “lost twenty pounds on the new diet”?
 
The answer to that lies in the [INTENT] of the post/statement. If you imply that you are the smartest in the class and no one else can touch your status, then bragging about your grades might be more rude than celebratory.
 
The difference is the intent. Braggers generally lift themselves up while at the same time putting others down. They only recognize their own talents and ignore the contributions of others to their success. This is when bragging becomes sinful.
 
When we do something well, if we acknowledge that Christ gave us this gift; this opportunity to serve others, then we will give Christ the credit. If we think we are all that and then some, we will use the words “I” and “Me” more often than the words, “because of him”.
 
Sometimes we don’t think that we are bragging, but everyone else around us feels that we are. This often causes people to say, “well, they are just jealous of my success and that’s their problem, not mine.” But, as a Christian, if we cause problems for someone else, then it is our problem as well.
 
If your friend is childless and your constant updates on how wonderful it is to have such perfect children bothers them, then you are a part of “their problem”!
 
You can tone down your excitement around them or better yet, invite them to be part of your children’s lives so that they can be as excited about your kids as you are and want the best for them and you both! If you exclude the person and hold your own ability to have a family as superior to those who cannot, then you are contributing to the problem and not showing concern for others, though there are always exceptions to that rule and you can’t please everyone every time.
 
Some people can go all their lives without bragging until they actually find themselves in the company of a braggart, or worse yet, in the company of someone who raises up the braggart as even more wonderful, while ignoring that you may share many of the same traits and abilities. Then, it is very difficult not to say… “well, I graduated with honors too, and I won an award for my paintings and had them exhibited in a gallery as well….”
 
(Galatians 6:1) states, “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.
 
While this verse is usually quoted to teenagers to convince them not to hang out with people who are not Christians, by action or deed, it is also very applicable to bragging.
 
If you have a friend who leans toward bragging on a regular basis, you can gently steer them back to reality, by jokingly saying, “Well, it sounds like you need to be given the title of Super Hero. There’s a fire burning in Texas, maybe you can cape up and help them put that out too while you are at it…”
 
While that might be a little too ungentle, if someone is a close friend you can be more honest with them and just let them know they sound a little full of it. If they really love you, they might get a bit miffed, but will then think about what you said and normally work to control their bragging or at the very least, tone it down a bit.
 
If someone is not close, but is a Christian, you can turn it around by saying, “Christ has truly blessed you with some wonderful talents and I am sure you are using them to help others and give them the same opportunities Christ has opened up for you….”
 
This tends to make them refocus on Christ and less on themselves, though let’s be honest, some people just don’t get it no matter what you say or do.
 
In such cases it is better to follow the advice of Paul in Galatians and not let yourself be tempted to out-boast them in order to soothe your own wounded ego or to make the braggart look small in your presence.
 
When you boast, remember that you are building yourself up, by taking away from others. .
 
When you find yourself wanting to brag about your accomplishments, take a step back and ask yourself who got you to where you are?
 
When you lost all that weight, who was backing you up, who was supporting you, who suggested a good diet and exercise program to follow? Then, instead of stating, “I lost 20 pounds through hard work and discipline,” making your slightly overweight friends feel as if you have better control of your life than they have of theirs, you can say, “It was a struggle, but I have lost 20 pounds thanks to the help of Weight Watchers and all the people who helped support me when I did not think I could go on and wanted to stop.”
 
The former statement declares how great and wonderful you are. The second shows a thankful attitude and admits that your accomplishment was the result of many people helping you.
 
The former is self centeredness; where you put Satan and the self in the forefront.
 
The latter is Christ Centered and shows thankfulness to others and a desire to help others reach the same goals you did by encouraging them rather than putting them down.
 
(Hebrews 4:15) states, “For we do not have a High Priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.”
 
This verse reminds us that when we boast and boost ourselves up to a high level of envy, we fail to put ourselves in other people’s shoes and do not see their problems, their hurts, their desires, only the greatness of who we think we are, not the greatness of others.
 
When you find yourself tempted to boast of your own abilities, take a time out and ask yourself what brought this on.
 
“Are you feeling underappreciated by others?” If so, the best way to overcome this is not by lifting yourself up, but by lifting up others, not so much by bragging on them, but by showing thankfulness for who they are and what they do. This encourages them to do the same for others as well.
 
Remember almost everyone who brags does so to prove their worth to others. They may brag to fit in, or brag to stand out, but they brag mainly for attention from others, possibly because they have been so overlooked earlier in life. The expression, the squeaky wheel gets the grease is very appropriate to braggers as well. They hope by calling attention the themselves, that they will recieve special honors that they would not get if they remained quiet and in the background.
 
In Christ we are all special. We all have our talents; we all have our gifts that we can share with others. No one is greater than any other and when we all work together, we show others how great our father in heaven is, not how great we are.
 
All of us brag sometimes, especially to close family and friends who know they can do the same with us! If you love someone, you get excited when things go well for them and want to hear good news, but we all need to be careful not to pull others down by lifting ourselves up, as this raises us up to god-like status and puts us more in the thinking mode of Satan than of Christ.
 
Share the good news of your life with others, welcome their good news without bitterness, be careful not to get too full of yourself and remember to give credit where credit is due and even if you do occasionally brag on yourself, you will be forgiven and probably find yourself surrounded by friends, not because of how great they think you are, but because of how loved and appreciated you make them feel. Seek out opportunities to lift up others and you will have less of a tendency to lift up yourself and don’t forget that you are no greater and no less than anyone else in the world.

Here are a couple of more pointers to keep in mind that will help you deal with braggards. 

 
1. Reframe the Situation in Your Mind.
Be aware that even though your friend’s bragging may annoy you and sometimes make you feel bad about yourself, this result may not be intentional. Your friend may be so insecure that he is overcompensating for other areas in his life where he thinks he does not measure up. If the bragging happens only occasionally, try to simply smile and accept that you are important enough to this person that he has a need to impress you. Take it as a compliment—and then change the subject to something that does not involve whatever your friend is bragging about.
 
2. Speak Up.
If the bragging is more frequent or if you feel like you’re going to explode the next time your friend brags, then confront him. Your goal is to alert the other person that he is bragging so that he realizes that he is doing it and to let him know that it annoys you and (possibly) makes you feel bad about yourself. So the next time the bragging starts, try saying, “When you name drop about all those rich people you hang out with, it makes me feel as if you like those people more than you like me” or, “When you talk about how many races you’ve won, it just reminds me how I haven’t been to the gym in weeks.” You might find that he is surprised and apologetic, because nobody wants to sound like a braggart.

3. Simply Change the Subject.
If you friend or relative has a chronic problem with boasting, then as nicely as possible, when they start their braggard session, simply change the subject and smile. It’s possible they have been doing it so long that they may not even realize how ridiculous they are looking. Without a doubt, chronic boasting projects huge insecurities. But, by changing the topic of the conversation, this may get their attention.

4. If All Else Fails–Just Walk Away.
Sometimes “tough love” means doing what you have to do to help the other person, if it hurts them a little. Apparently, they are blinded and not only insensitive to their problem, but also you as well. Sometimes walking away in love and respect is the best thing to do. Don’t forget to pray for them. You may very well be the person God wants to use to help them not only see the error of their ways, but begin to work in the direction of positive change and growth into humble Christlikeness. 

Author: David Crews Ph.D.

David holds an earned, Ph.D Doctorate in Philosophy from Trinity Theological Seminary. In addition, he graduated with academic honors (4.0) from Lincoln Christian University, Lincoln, Illinois, with a Masters of Arts, M.A. in Theological Studies. He also graduated with academic honors (4.0) with a second Master's degree, M.A. in Christian Studies from Luther Rice University, Lithonia, Georgia. David has recently pursued Post-Doctoral studies in Theology, Biblical Archaeology and Ancient History at both Oxford University and the London School of Theology. In his teaching, writing and speaking, David's goal is to help believers grow into greater Christlikeness and holistic Christian spirituality with relational, biblical, practical tools they can apply to see personal transformation in their lives and communities.