The cartoons I watched as a little girl sometimes illustrated the struggle with temptation by using a tiny angel or an imp sitting on the character’s shoulder urging him on to goodness or mischief.
I’ve never had that particular experience, but as I’ve matured in my faith I have discovered the presence of some kin of that imp in my own life. It hovers around my inner ear and whenever I do something generous, kind or compassionate it whispers, “Ooh, that was so nice!”
In my younger days I failed to recognize these whispers and accepted them as my own self-assessment. Sometimes I actually believed them and added a little pat on the back of self-congratulation.
I will have attained a greater level of spiritual maturity and come that much nearer to being truly “nice”, when I am able to do the kind, generous, compassionate act without thinking about it, and without the self-praise of that cheer leading ego-imp.
In the meantime, I try to respond to those insidious thoughts by comparing my…often grudging… acts of generosity to the true kindness, compassion and grace shown to me every day.
To be a Christian is to strive to be like Christ in one’s attitudes and relationships. When I am finally able to be good for nothing…without looking for praise or reward…I will have come one step closer to that goal.