The cartoons I watched as a little girl sometimes illustrated the struggle with temptation by using a tiny angel or devil sitting on the character’s shoulder urging him on to goodness or mischief.
As I’ve matured in my faith, I have discovered the presence of some kin of that fictional 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 the source of these whispers. I actually believed them and even added a little pat on the back of self-congratulation.
Now, I realize that I will have attained a greater level of spiritual maturity, and come that much nearer to being truly nice, when I am finally able to do the kind, generous, or compassionate act without thinking about it, and without the self-praise of that cheerleading 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 able to be good for nothing…without looking for praise or reward…I will have come one step closer to that goal.