I had thrown a great party.
The food was great. The guests were great. There wasn’t an ungreat detail to be found. People raved about this great party. And I loved the raves. Caitie, people said, pulled off something great.
It was true. It just wasn’t the entire truth. Because there had been two of us: me and Ned. Two of us cutting checks to the caterers, hanging streamers, putting coats in the bedroom. Two of us throwing a great party.
But I wanted my name to be first when the credits rolled. And for a while, it was. Until breakfast one Sunday weeks after the party.
There were three of us: a guest from the party, me, and Ned. We ate English muffins. We drank hot coffee. Then the guest offered up some praise: “You threw one great party, Caitie!” I replied: “Glad you liked it!”
Ned sat there. Silent and still. The conversation continued. Breakfast finished. The guest left. Ned remained silent and still.
Without the guest around to praise me, and with Ned there, silent and still, I started to see what I’d done to him: I’d stolen his contribution and made it my own. I’d traded in truth for praise. And left Ned out in the cold.
All because I liked getting the credit. Because I liked others to think highly of me. And because I’d misplaced the part of my heart that knows these are dangerous idols to chase.
I fumbled through an apology to Ned. He was hurt. And he was forgiving. He showed more heart in those moments over cold coffee than I’d shown in the weeks after the party.
And I was reminded that our hearts, if we place them at the front of our lives, are larger, more fulfilling than any credit we get.
And that our lives – our fumbling, unkempt, beautiful lives – are best driven not by praise, but by truth. To ourselves, to our lives, and to those who travel with us.