Archive for the ‘Humility’ Category

Run Away From Aggrandizement

July 9, 2021

We live in an age of selfies, personal branding, being outrageous just to be noticed—especially on social media.

In the US, we have “leaders” in politics such as Congresspeople who have actually changed their personal political philosophy in order to be more grandiose and outrageous in order to be noticed, be seen, be branded. If it is good for the Kardashians, then it must be good for me.

This might be a good time to pause and consider how we (I) use social media. What is my motivation for the things I publish?

I turn to my go-to guy for psychology. No, not Dr. Phil. John Climacus, the Desert Father. “We will show ourselves true lovers of wisdom and of God if we stubbornly run away from all possibility of aggrandizement.”

Pause…Let that sink in. Where do I fall short in that category?

John has further thoughts well expressed:

Humility is a heavenly waterspout which can lift the soul from the abyss up to heaven’s height.

The sea is the source of the fountain, and humility is the source of discernment.

Why Is It So Hard To Submit To God?

May 20, 2021

I’m reading in the letter from James in the Christian Bible. This is one of those pieces of spiritual writing that is so dense with thought that you could take months just going from sentence to sentence.

He is talking in the passage where I’m at right now about how God yearns to see his spirit at work in us.

I love that phrase. How packed with meaning.

James relates that to our human resistance, called pride. And he talks of the opposite of pride, namely humility.

The study guide asks us to consider, “Why is it so hard to submit to God?”

I’m not going to suggest an answer. We know the answer within us if we but pause and look.

For some reason, I am prone to wondering about people. I wonder about how people whose pride has driven them from prominent positions to the depths. How do they live with themselves and their family? What do they do all day? Sit and brood? Act as if they are wronged and get worse?

This has happened to many men and several women over the past few years.

But more to the point–what about me? At what point is my pride still in the way? Do I feel the need to justify myself? Do I need to promote myself? Pride is so insidious.

The other part of this passage from James says, “Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.”

That is the goal.

Dealing With Anger

May 17, 2021

I drove up the road to pick up my pizza order. With a couple of pizzas nestled comfortably on the heated seat beside me, I headed south for the short drive home.

The road has three lanes of traffic through the business district, narrows to two lanes after crossing over an Interstate highway, then narrows to one southbound lane as we pass through a couple of miles of farmland.

Ahead were perhaps a dozen cars bunched tightly together. Not as bad as NASCAR, but you get the idea. Except that I’ve allowed several car lengths of space between the line of cars and me. Approaching the last merge there is a Jeep ahead of me closely following the dark car in front. A white pickup truck is in the right land and must merge or run out of road.

The pickup speeds up a little. There is no room between the Jeep and dark car. The Jeep does not yield. The white pickup does not yield. I am allowing plenty of room for the pickup. He does not back off and at the final instant is able to squeeze in. Triumph!

Did I mention the line of cars? We all are traveling at approximately the speed limit for the next mile to a traffic light. Where we all stop. Nothing gained for the moments of tension.

When I drive my car the media system automatically connects to my iPhone and plays the next podcast queued up. Andy Stanley is speaking on anger—specifically mentioning “road rage.” I love these little coincidences. He’s quoting from the letter from James.

“Those conflicts and disputes among you, where do they come from? Do they not come from your cravings that are at war within you? You want something and do not have it; so you commit murder. And you covet something and cannot obtain it; so you engage in disputes and conflicts. You do not have, because you do not ask.”

Anger is not a primary base emotion. It has deeper causes. Insecurity, fear, greed, envy, wish to get ahead of others, pride. James gives some advice.

Or do you suppose that it is for nothing that scripture says, “God yearns jealously for the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”? But he gives all the more grace; therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”

Humility, setting aside our striving to be one better, putting others first—these are antidotes. These are also a lifestyle pleasing to God, especially practiced in every little way.

Energy

February 2, 2021

We waste so much energy. Not the petroleum or electricity part. Although that is true. I mean our spiritual and mental energy. Our personal energy.

We succumb to illusion and delusion losing awareness of the ultimate truth. Our mental activities are scattered, dissipated. We have lost focus on the truth of God’s eternal spirit.

We organize our spiritual life into churches, denominations, organizations. And then we squabble among ourselves within and among those things.

We waste so much energy. Emotional, physical, psychic, spiritual.

Let us become clearly aware of the Spirit and our need for our own spiritual formation. Instead of scattered arguments, let us recall the lessons of pride and forge humility on the anvil of the spirit.

A writer once described his main character as having the ability to concentrate entirely on the task at had even in the midst of crises. He called it the immense power of focus.

A magnifying glass can focus the sun’s energy enough to start a fire. Imagine what we each could do if we were to focus the true source of energy onto the things God has asked of us–showing mercy, pursuing justice, loving our neighbor.

Be Kind, Simple, Humble

January 15, 2021

Contemplate upon these ancient words of wisdom

There are three treasures which I embrace and follow closely;

The first is to be kind;

The second is to be simple;

The third is to not put one’s own importance first in the world.

Lao Tzu

Let us think of people we have met who are kind. We love to be around those people. They are not weak. They have inner strength of awareness of the situation of others.

There are people we know, surely, who do not overly complicate things and situations. They grasp the essence without embellishment. They live without ornamentation. They cannot be tempted away by outlandish promises.

Who among us like to be around someone who thinks only of themselves? Those who, when in conversation, seem not to be even aware of our existence while listening for words of praise or criticism of themselves?

Perhaps we have been caught up in the events of the world, no matter where we live. Perhaps we need this reminder today of three treasures—kindness, simplicity, humility.

A Vision of Human Spiritual Development

December 24, 2020

“…be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others.” —Philippians 2

The Apostle Paul writes to a small group of Jesus-followers in Philippi. We know from Acts 2 that the movement grew exponentially because of the way the early followers lived. Here is a brief glimpse of that life.

He did not instruct them into something new. He reminded them of their coming into fellowship together and with Jesus. His hope is they never forget it…and never stop living it.

Our challenge as we sit here socially distant from others and most likely not in church on Christmas Eve maybe for the first time in our lives, reminds us in these ways of becoming a Jesus-follower even in these circumstances.

The times require even more than ever humility, forsaking selfish ambitions, infusing our selves with humility.

Thus we truly prepare ourselves to celebrate Christmas no matter what our unusual circumstances this year.

Servant Leadership

September 11, 2018

There was a man. CEO of a smaller company. Perhaps 100-150 employees. High technology. Seemingly successful–according to the press releases and conversations.

He gave away statues of Jesus washing Peter’s feet to business acquaintances. These were large, perhaps 14 inches long by 8 inches high.

He held a conference for partners and customers. Had the author of a book on servant leadership give one of the keynotes.

He always had a smile.

But things weren’t really going so well. One day his investors told him he had to sell. So he sold his company to a competitor.

He came into the office on Sunday and cleaned out everything. There was no trace of him left. He literally took the money and ran.

Except for a printed memo posted for the employees notifying them that they had a new owner and that the future was uncertain.

We can model servant leadership by giving away models.

Or, we could do what Jesus actually did and taught–be a servant.

Ask how we can help.

Encourage those who work for us.

Be honest and transparent, therefore worth of trust.

Face up to the challenges alongside our staff as well as celebrating the good times.

Create a professional environment.

How do you want to be remembered?

Be a model, don’t just give them away.

Be Careful of Praise

April 6, 2018

Someone praised me yesterday. It warmed my heart. I have to admit it. And the fact that it was public didn’t hurt anything.

Then I remembered it was only two days ago that I wrote about one of my spiritual heroes:

Teresa of Ávila–

Beg our Lord to grant you perfect love for your neighbor. If someone else is well spoken of, be more pleased than if it were yourself; this is easy enough, for if you were really humble, it would vex you to be praised.

And then came the memory of someone I was counseling (not in a professional sense, I shun licenses and such). This person was filled with pride.

Realizing that in someone else (to use an old Christian word) convicted me, also.

The people who studied such things–I’m not referring to psychologists but to thousands of years of spiritual seekers–have traced the genealogy of sin. That family tree begins with pride.

Overcoming pride can be a life’s work. But only after recognizing it within.

Searching For A Little Humility

April 4, 2018

Teresa of Ávila

It is amusing to see souls who, while they are at prayer, fancy they are willing to be despised and publicly insulted for the love of God, yet afterwards do all they can to hide their small defects. If anyone unjustly accuses them of a fault, God deliver us from their outcries! Prayer does not consist of such fancies. No, our Lord expects works from us. Beg our Lord to grant you perfect love for your neighbor. If someone else is well spoken of, be more pleased than if it were yourself; this is easy enough, for if you were really humble, it would vex you to be praised.

Words from one of my favorite guides.

So often a couple of things seem to be missing from our discourse–social media or just social.

Responsibility and Humility.

I hear shouting about rights. But when it comes to talking about responsibilities that are the companion of rights, only ominous silence.

To this day, I hate writing the bio part of my Websites. It is meant to boast in order to bring me business. It seems like the “fake” part of an interview. “Tell us about a fault.” “Well, sometimes I work too hard.”

Right.

Or, “Honey, I took out the garbage.” Only to hear, “Yeah, you were supposed to. You’re expecting maybe a little doggie treat for doing your job?”

Maybe we pray along with Teresa, “No, our Lord expects work from us. Beg our Lord to grant you perfect love for your neighbor.”

The Gentle Art of Asking

February 2, 2018

How about you? Do you feel like you know everything you need to know?

Whether you are in business or ministry or family–do you have all the answers?

Edgar H. Schein writes in his book, “Humble Inquiry: The Gentle Art of Asking Instead of Telling,” that many people would rather fail than admit their dependency on another person.

How about succeeding together?

Try Humble Inquiry. Asking questions implies that someone knows something I don’t–even if they are a subordinate, or younger than I, or from a different background. I must humble myself to ask someone placing myself in a position of learner to someone superior to me in this situation. It is the opposite of what we are taught in our culture which places emphasis on telling.

I’ve talked often about the skills of listening. Often we need to ask questions to elicit something to listen to.

Schein says, “The kind of inquiry I am talking about derives from an attitude of interest and curiosity. It implies a desire to build a relationship.”

We must slow down to ask and then listen.

Again Schein says, “I find that the biggest mistakes I make and the biggest risks I run all result from a mindless hurrying. If I hurry, I do not pay enough attention to what is going on, and that makes mistakes more likely. More importantly, if I hurry, I do not observe new possibilities.”

He points out in our “Do and Tell” culture, the most important thing we need to learn is to reflect. Before doing something, apply Humble Inquiry to yourself. “Ask ourselves: What is going on here? What would be the appropriate thing to do (Wow, there are hundreds of men right now who wish they had asked themselves that question)? On whom am I dependent? Who is dependent upon me?”

In other words, become more mindful.

“The toughest relearning, or new learning, is for leaders to discover their dependence on their subordinates, to embrace Here-and-now Humility, and to build relationships of high trust and valid communication with their subordinates.”

Schein was an MIT professor and business consultant. You can substitute parent for leader and use the ideas in family. Pastor for leader and transform a church.

Read and digest the book. It’s short and not technical. Good read.