Archive for the ‘Humility’ Category

Silence Is A Spiritual Discipline

January 11, 2018

Sometimes we say something with more meaning than we intended.

Sometimes we walk away from an encounter with others muttering to ourselves, “That’s what I should have said…”

Such is the state of today’s chapter of Proverbs–Chapter 11.

Traditionally attributed to Solomon, the wisest person to have walked the face of the earth, so they said, it says in the 11th chapter, “Where there is no guidance, a nation falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety.”

Solomon died. His son became king. He was faced with an important decision about the direction of his rule almost immediately. His father’s advisors, who had served faithfully and well for many years, offered advice. He rejected that advice in favor of his friends who, like him, had grown up in the wealth and abundance of Solomon’s castle.

The people rebelled. The kingdom split.

Solomon’s son. Who should have grown up listening to the sayings of his wise father. The kingdom didn’t even make it through the first generation. Of course, a remnant of the kingdom lasted for a long time. But it was never the same.

I thought that this offered an ideal opportunity to comment on today’s political situation in America.

But then I considered a saying just above.

“Whoever belittles another lacks sense, but an intelligent person remains silent.”

Many are the times I said something and regretted it. Rare are the times when I kept my mouth quiet and regretted it.

There is a time to speak up, #MeToo. Mostly not.

Who You Are Speaks More Loudly Than What You Say

September 8, 2017

“Example is not the main thing in influencing others; it’s the only thing”, Albert Schweitzer believes this because it shows what kind of person someone really is. 

What parent hasn’t been exasperated by what their kids have done after being told not to do it.

Floyd had the most vulgar language of anyone in the shop. One day he’s talking at break time and says he had to slap his daughter for using one of those words I’m not going to print. 

We all looked at him and said, “Where do you think she learned to talk that way?”

There was a teacher who taught what was called in the old days Home Economics. Part of the curriculum was etiquette. You know, how to eat properly. In the cafeteria, she was a slob. She told the students around her, “Do as I say, not as I do.” How do you think that worked?

There’s the preacher who speaks passionately about the love of God thinking words will move the attendees. But what they see is someone who is aloof or arrogant. 

Humility is the key to character. Every time I fail in that trait I beat myself up (metaphorically) for a long time. But at least I’m aware of it. How many people slide through life blissfully unaware of their impact on others? Don’t be that guy.

Helping The Poor As A Mission Discipline

June 26, 2017

My grandfather used to tell me about an incident during the Depression when a train derailed in town. His step-father, along with half of the town, ran down to the train that night and helped themselves to loads of “free” coal. It was the depression. Many people. Were out of work. It gets very cold in Ohio. It was like a gift from God.

News from Pakistan at the end of last week. A gasoline tanker truck wrecked and fuel was spilling out. Hundreds of poor people ran to save some of that fuel. Gasoline is a flammable. Catches fire easily. Yes, this spill ignited. A hundred people died.

A gospel that preaches “We’ll save your soul if you wish, but you are on your own for food, clothing, and shelter” isn’t the gospel of Jesus.

Jesus talked often about the responsible use of money. Paul collected money from his churches to return to Jerusalem to feed and clothe women and children left in poverty by their joining the community following Jesus.

It baffles me that we (the collective rich country “we”) cannot devise an economic system that shares something of the wealth of the economy with such poor people. There are so many people who are so focused on “I want my share…and more; and I want to keep it for me”. That emotion is driving an awful lot of worldwide politics these days.

I’m not talking politics, though. Politics won’t solve any problems.

I’m talking mission and service as a discipline. And how if every Christ-follower who has any financial means contributed, so much good could happen. 

  • Fresh drinking water to help eradicate diseases
  • Investment in businesses large enough to hire people providing jobs and dignity
  • Medicine and access to health professionals
  • Investment in agriculture, aquaponics, and other technologies where people could feed themselves
  • Investment in communication and transportation infrastructure 

Update

I’m still amazed that at least in the US we can’t treat women better. But some little progress and awareness seems to be hitting the “bro-land” of Silicon Valley. After denying and obfuscating for a long enough period to complete a funding round, the VC leader finally stepped down and apologized for his treatment of women and said he’d seek counseling. Hope that works out better than the “counseling” that NFL players get.

How much counseling do you need to stop reaching under the conference room table and feeling up a woman’s leg during a meeting? Maybe we need to bring back the slap in the face or something?

And Uber now is looking for a CEO, COO, CFO, VP of Engineering, and other top staff after cleaning house due to the frat house culture they enabled.

Remember when boys grew up and became men?

Humility Is The Secret

March 23, 2017

Humility is the secret of the wise. –Ralph Waldo Emerson

They always put large mirrors over the desks in hotel rooms. At least in Marriotts. And I’m in another one. Detroit. Overlooking the Detroit river. I look south and see…Canada.

After immersing in research at my computer, I glance up. See myself. Startled. I’ve been up 45 minutes. My hair is still standing up from 7 hours in bed. A reason to be humble.

Yesterday I shared the story of the man in the village who wanted the kind of riches that the wise man had who could give away a huge fortune so effortlessly.

The secret is humility.

People are nice to me. Say good things about my writing. Some are sincere. I love them. Encouragement is rewarding. Some are afraid that I may say something bad about their product, service, themselves on my business blog. So they are nice. I don’t know motivations. I just assume they are in the first group.

The danger lies in letting the compliments go to my head. Never think I am good. Keep learning. Keep praying for other people’s successes.

A friend once came up to me. “No one really wants to be humble,” he said.

I was puzzled. Then I realized that aside from the psychologically needy who feel bad about themselves, healthy people have trouble putting others ahead of themselves. That’s what humility is.

I just saw a saying from Gandhi where he talked of “reducing oneself to zero.”

I’m sure not in a psychologically unhealthy way. It’s just less of me; more of Jesus; more of others.

That’s humble. What’s so wrong with that?

Humility Is So Misunderstood

August 11, 2016

Being a humble person does not equal being a weak person.

I’ll let that sink in for a minute.

It takes great strength of character and personality to be humble.

19th Century philosophers (whose thinking still infects people) obsessed over power and powerful people. Most famous was Nietzsche and his Übermensch, translated in the comic books as “Superman.”

Today, many people, and evidently the popular press, still celebrate powerful people, especially men.

Yesterday I discussed pride. The antidote to pride is humility. We read in the Proverbs “Pride goes before a fall.” Jesus said, “All who exalt themselves will be humbled, and all who humble themselves will be exalted.” (Matthew 23: 12)

All who exalt themselves will be humbled, and all who humble themselves will be exalted. — Jesus

Humility merely means to put others first. To many in America–and evidently in many other places–putting others first is weak. But, pride and striving to achieve power over people is actually a manifestation of an inner weakness.

Putting others first means that my first response isn’t about me. Pride is “all about me.” It’s trying to make myself look better than I am.

We can develop a discipline around humility. For some, it probably comes to them naturally. Or maybe they were raised from infancy to consider others first. That would be me.

We can become self-aware about when our thoughts are moving toward “me first” and choose to consider other people.

The first step is that thought, that moment in time when we can choose, that moment in life before it becomes just a part of who we are.

We can choose.

Hold a door open for someone is a start. Help carry a physical burden. As we grow, we can help someone carry an emotional burden. We can listen to others. I don’t mean hear noise. Listen. With attention. Not with a busy mind thinking of our response or the beach.

Humility is a choice–a choice for life with-God.

We Act As If There Were No God

August 9, 2016

Let’s be honest with ourselves. For once. Really.

Don’t we sometimes act as if there were no God?

Is that why sometimes we don’t really take time to pray deeply? Or why we just read quickly over a Bible passage and call it “study”? Or why we pass by the hurting person and mutter, “I’ll pray for you.”

In Psalm 10, David who was no stranger to the effects of pride sang about it.

In the pride of their countenance the wicked say, “God will not seek it out” all their thoughts are, “There is no God.”

Yes, there are people who look at it as their full-time job to act as if there is no God.

My wife and I will think of someone. She’ll say, “Of course, we can’t see into their heart.” I’ll say, of course. But Jesus said that you’ll know his followers by their fruit. Are there any apples on that tree?

Pride. It’s the root of all evil. And so easily come by. And it hides in so many disguises.

I was in some sort of argument, typical of my youth, and someone said, “You’ve got too much pride.” Or, maybe I said it about myself.

Those are condemning words. I can still feel it. Probably like Peter when the cock crowed and he thought, “Oh, oh. What did I just say?” The realization hits. You are condemned by your own words.

It’s worth stopping often and reflecting on the past hours/days. When did my pride prevent me from doing what I know I should have been doing. When did I not help someone in need? When did I gloss over study instead of seeking deeper understanding and relationship with God?

For me? Yesterday. It’s too early yet this morning. But, I’m about to leave the house. Then, what will happen?

Spiritual Discipline of Humility

July 7, 2016

Jesus makes it impossible to think you’re righteous because of what you do.

After Matthew introduces who Jesus is in his book, he dives right in to report Jesus’ teaching. I say report because much of chapters 5-7 are quotes.

I have been returning to Matthew this year and also Mark to search out just Jesus’ words. Not the stories or drama. Or to pick on poor Peter. I thought that this year I’d throw out the theologies and commentaries and just focus on his words.

You can read these chapters as a set of instructions. Remembering that the Pharisees also had a set of instructions. Or they called them “Laws.” It was like a checklist of things to do today. Except that for the Pharisees it was a checklist of about 630 items. Imagine trying to check those off every day!

So, looking at Jesus’ words. His checklist in Matthew is smaller. But then stop and contemplate what he’s saying:

  • If you’re angry at someone, it’s the same thing as murder
  • If you obtain an easy divorce, not only you commit adultery, you force your spouse to do so as well
  • If you hate your enemy, so what, that’s easy; love your enemy
  • If someone forces you to carry their packs (think Roman soldiers) for a mile, carry it two
  • If someone asks for a small thing, give them a big thing
  • And there is more…

When you look at Jesus’ checklist, it’s impossible to do on your own. Even more impossible than that of the Pharisees.

This is all leading up to a conclusion–it’s all about the status of your heart. Is your heart cold and methodical? Just intent in checking off the list so that God will think you’re great? Or is your heart focused on God?

You cannot checklist your way to righteousness (being right with God). That means you cannot compare yourself to others, saying ‘I’m better than those sinners.’ No, you cannot do that.

Changing your heart’s focus from self (ego) toward God with the outlook of helping others–that is called humility and that is the path to righteousness.

They Got It All Wrong

March 22, 2016

Sometimes we miss the significant thing and reward someone for the wrong thing. We thought they did one thing, when in reality they did something else.

Jesus healed a guy who was dead. For four days he was dead. And Jesus healed him, gave him new life, restored him to his family.

There were many witnesses.

The religious/political rulers did not like that. The plotted to kill not only Jesus, who was their chief antagonist, but also Lazarus, because he had been dead and now he was alive. (Irony that they wanted to kill him again.)

So Jesus went away and essentially hid from the rulers.

Then he came to Jerusalem to celebrate Passover. And people spotted him. “There’s the guy who brought back a man from the dead. He must be the anointed one of God. The long-expected king to reclaim our land for us.” Word spread, people gathered, they gave Jesus a royal reception into Jerusalem.

Sometimes in our study we go off on a wrong path. We didn’t understand something the way God meant it. Some people have taken that misunderstanding and done much harm. With Jesus it certainly ended his attempt to be incognito entering Jerusalem.

We must take great care when interpreting what we read while studying the Bible. We must understand what it says, not what we want it to say.

One thing I find interesting is that we don’t find Jesus discussing that royal reception and parade into town. He knew what was in store for him. We don’t know if he waved to the people like today’s politicians. Or if he looked aloof and stoic like a royal person would. We don’t know how the adulation affected him. I know how it would affect me. I’d get a big head.

He seemed to accept it and move on toward his destiny.

Our lesson is to also accept what happens and move on toward our destiny. And to take care to celebrate the right things.

Gentleness Becomes You

October 26, 2015

Blessed are the gentle. We mostly know the verse with an older English word–meek. Today’s usage renders meek as perhaps not the optimum translation.

One must be strong to be gentle. One is passive to be meek–at least the way we understand that word today.

The super-aggressive person drives people away. Few, if any, other people wish to be around such a person. They may get their way for a while, but often the end comes early.

The passive, er meek, person leaves people cold. Being with them seems as if there is no “there” there. They have little to contribute.

How often have we wished the we could take some of the aggressiveness from one to bring them down a little while giving it to the other so that they would gain some confidence and speak up and assert themselves a little.

Let’s look at gentle.

A gentle person is confident in their identity. They are comfortable in who they are. Not seeking limelight, they work often behind the scenes for the benefit of others.

A gentle person treats others respectfully. Not shouting or deceitful. Not seeking vengence nor trying to bring them down.

A gentle person also treats themselves gently. Comfortable in who they are and confident in their place, they avoid negative self-talk. They take care of themselves–health, intellect, spirit, relationships.

A gentle person treats nature well. Not defacing or destroying.

I’m glad that the word “gentle” came into my consciousness last week. It reminded me of qualities for which I strive. Paul often lists this characteristic in his summary of gifts of the spirit. 

Yes, blessed are the gentle. Make a friend of a gentle person and try to emulate. A good goal for the week.

Being Humble Explained

June 24, 2015

When pride comes, then comes disgrace; but wisdom is with the humble. Proverbs 11:2

I have a friend who always brings up pride as the sin that lies at the foundation of most other sins. Perhaps he has become aware of himself and repented of past pride that almost proved his undoing.

Think about it a little. When are the times when pride has gotten between you and God? When pride has injured a friend or family member? When pride has stopped you from learning something new?

According to this proverb, humble is the trait juxtaposed to pride.

Humble is often misrepresented by those who think they do not want to lead a self-disciplined life. Or by those “social Darwinists” who believe in “survival of the fittest” and power is a virtue. They have led generations to believe that humble means weak.

But it is actually the opposite. Pride evolves from weakness. It is usually a compensation for the perceived lack of power or strength of the person. How many are they, who puff up with pride only to be deflated later. It’s only the true narcissists who continue in pride oblivious to the wreckage of the people around them.

It takes strength to be humble. One must be strong to put others ahead yet retain the strong spiritual core of a relationship with God. It takes someone strong in spiritual discipline who practices daily the spiritual disciplines of study, prayer, meditation, service, simplicity.

The other strength comes from putting aside the pride of believing that they know everything and acknowledge gaps in knowledge that can be filled through study or through the guidance of a mentor.

To be humble just means to put others ahead of yourself. It is a willingness to learn and grow every day.

I read this saying of a Desert Father that I wholly agree with, “I’d rather have a man who has sinned and repented than a man who has not sinned and thinks he is righteous.”