Spiritual Growth and Christian Living Resources

How to Be a Better Boaster

  • David Murray HeadHeartHand.org
How to Be a Better Boaster

[Editor's Note: We hope you enjoy this tongue-in-cheek article by David Murray. Below you will also find David's follow-up to this piece, "The One Boast That God Approves Of."] 

Have you ever tried boasting? It’s so deeply satisfying. Basically you spend your time showing how you are bigger, better, stronger, faster, wiser, and more wonderful than everyone else.

You can do it anywhere. You can boast at home, at school, at work, with friends, on the sports field, in the coffee shop, and on and on and on. It’s really limitless. Boasting has no boundaries or borders. You can even do it in church (I’ll give you some bonus tips on that below). One of the best places is social media; it’s been tailor made for boasters. And if you’re a bit shy, you can still boast in your own heart without anyone else knowing about it. That gives you such an amazing sense of smug self-satisfaction

Subjects? Take your pick; it’s endless. You can boast about your marriage, your children, your work ethic, your health, your brains, your degrees, your friends, your looks, your fashion sense, your income, your investments, your car, your house, your career, and you can even turn sufferings into a boast. As for tips for boasting in church, try letting everyone know how much money you give, how loving you are to the poor, how much you pray and read your Bible, how many charities you support, how spiritual you are, even how humble you are.

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How to Exaggerate

How to Exaggerate

You want some examples? OK, here are some concrete ideas for your next steps:

Tell the same story again and again. “Did I ever tell you about when I won the ….(e.g. top student award)?” You can fill in the gap with anything, but just be sure to keep saying this again and again. It doesn’t matter if people have heard it before, because people often forget how brilliant we are.

You can also take a success and exaggerate for greater impact. Don’t just say, “I caught a fish.” Say, “I caught a huge fish and it took me all my strength and skill to get it in.”

And why not tell things publicly which many people think should be kept private. Here’s an example: “I evangelized ten people this week.” There’s some Bible verse about not doing our religious deeds before others, but obviously that doesn’t apply to evangelism. It will encourage others of course, to hear how good you are at this.

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One-Upping, One-Downing, and Story-Topping

One-Upping, One-Downing, and Story-Topping

An old favorite is just to talk and talk about yourself and never ask questions of other people. Your life is far more interesting after all, and it would really be just a waste of time to hear what other people are doing. If they start talking, pretend to listen while you think up a way of breaking into the conversation and getting the spotlight back on yourself.

Then there’s one-upping and one-downing. They often go well together. One-upping is when you hear someone’s story and you better it. An example would be, “Oh you work fifty hours a week? I usually work seventy.” A favorite one-downer is something like, “They’re really not very good parents.” That has the benefit of not only putting other people down but also implying that you’re quite the expert on the topic. That’s quite subtle and not easy for boasters to pull-off, but with practice it can become really effective.

Try some story-topping as well. “You saved a hundred dollars at the sales? Great! That’s amazing! Believe it or not, I managed to save two hundred dollars, and really without trying.”

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Numbers and Name-Dropping

Numbers and Name-Dropping

Numbers are key to boasting. You’ve got to get adept at counting people, dollars, degrees, clients, employees, years of service, and so on. This has become quite acceptable in church circles now, so don’t be shy. Numbers of baptisms, members, staff; size of budget, size of church building; how many missionaries sent, how many churches planted; how many books you’ve read, or written. Really, anything that makes you look better than other Christians or pastors. I heard someone the other day tell their pastor that they’d just managed to read their first volume of John Owen. I was really impressed with the pastor’s reply: “O, I finished all his works by age 13.” Perfect!

Drop some names here and there as well. “When I was at lunch with Donald the other day,” or “When I was counseling Oprah the other day.” Let them ask, “Donald who?” or “Not Oprah Winfrey?” and then you can kind of combine humility with your bragging.

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The Humble-Brag and Virtue-Signaling

The Humble-Brag and Virtue-Signaling

Which brings me to the best boast of all – the humblebrag. Great name, eh? And great technique. Here’s how. “I’m so humbled that God gave me such an amazing talent.” Or “I can’t believe I get to preach to two thousand people every Sunday.” See how you can use humility to boast? It’s incredible isn’t it.

Virtue-signaling is a recent innovation, and we’re still refining it, but it’s a way of show-casing your own virtue to gain you higher standing in a social group. Some good ones I’ve seen on social media are: “Saying prayers for the poor in Africa,” or, “Grieving over global warming.”

Social media has also made it possible to boast without saying anything. Post pictures of top class restaurants, white sandy beaches, new cars, etc. Or post photos with people that will reflect well on you and make people think well of you.

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The Pharisee Boast

The Pharisee Boast

Lastly, the old faithful, and the ultimate fall-back if all else fails, the Pharisee boast. “Lord I thank you that I’m not like other people….” You know how to finish it. What I like about this one is how easy it is to disguise thankfulness to self with thankfulness to God.

As you can see there’s no shortage of ways to boast. It’s pretty addictive actually. Just keep the ultimate aim in mind which is praise, respect, attention, promotion, recognition, and popularity. In fact, at heart, it’s really all about worship, self-worship and getting others to worship you. Try some of these ways I’ve suggested and you shall be as god.

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Part Two: The One Boast That God Approves Of

Part Two: The One Boast That God Approves Of

I recently posted a tongue-in-cheek article about how to boast more effectively. It’s purpose was really to highlight how subtle, deceitful, and varied our boasting can be. But it was also to contrast with the Apostle Paul’s determination.

God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world (Gal. 6:14).

Paul saw all the boasting that was going on in the world, especially in the religious world, and exclaimed “God forbid that I should ever boast. God prevent it, stop it, end it. May it never be.

But then there’s one exception. He introduces the only boast that God approves of: the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ.

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Boasting in the Cross Instead of Ourselves

Boasting in the Cross Instead of Ourselves

His exclamation and exception are linked. He knows that boasting obscures the cross of Christ and the Christ of the cross. But he also knows that boasting in the cross is the best safeguard against every other kind of boasting. If we’re boasting in the cross, we cannot boast about ourselves. If we’re boasting about ourselves, we’re not really boasting in the cross.

What is it to boast in the cross and why does Paul commend it. He commends boasting in the cross not only because it shrinks his ego, but because it magnifies God in all his glorious attributes.

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What boasting in the cross magnifies...

What boasting in the cross magnifies...

It magnifies God’s truthfulness. Think of the multiple Old Testament promises that were fulfilled at the cross. Somebody counted between 50-60 in one day. The cross says, “God keeps his promises.”

It magnifies God’s patience. When we see how God punishes sin at the cross, we marvel at his long-suffering with the world up until that point and the world since that point.

It magnifies God’s generosity. In giving his Son he gave us himself.

It magnifies God’s wisdom in that God found a way to remain just yet justify the ungodly.

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Boasting in the cross magnifies God's holiness, justice, anger, and power.

Boasting in the cross magnifies God's holiness, justice, anger, and power.

It magnifies God’s holiness by demonstrating that he will not close his eyes to sin, no matter where he sees it.

It magnifies God’s justice as he punishes Christ without mercy – exactly and perfectly and satisfyingly.

It magnifies God’s anger. There we see God’s terrifying anger as we see it in no other place.

It magnifies God’s power. We see it in the earthquake, the eclipse, and the resurrections of the saints. But we see it most of all in  his conquering of sin, death, and the devil, and in his delivery of sinners from his judgment.

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Boasting in the cross magnifies God's love and grace.

Boasting in the cross magnifies God's love and grace.

It magnifies God’s love and grace. As Moses said, God loved us because he loved us (Deut. 7:7-8). That is all.

No wonder, Paul says, God forbid that I should boast in anything else other than the cross of Christ. Let it never, ever be!


This article was a compilation of "How to Be a Better Boaster" and "The One Boast that God Approves Of," originally published on headhearthand.org. Used with permission.

David Murray: Pastor. Professor. Author. All opinions expressed are my own and do not necessarily represent Puritan Reformed Seminary or the Free Reformed Church.

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