Saturday, May 7, 2011

"Be More Humble and Less Proud"

My New Year's Resolution for this month is to "be more humble and less proud".  I have focused on humility in a previous month's resolution, and as I contemplated how to begin with this month's resolution, I decided to go back through my archives and re-read what I wrote in other posts about humility. 

It was an interesting experience to see the insights I had as I went through this exercise the first time, what things I have retained and what things I have "forgotten" as I have focused on other godly characteristics.  If nothing else, it has re-emphasized to me the importance of repeating some very basic things over time - and not letting myself think that I have mastered something even this fundamental. 

I want to excerpt in this initial post some of the things that jumped out at me as I reviewed those previous posts:

I find it fascinating that the end of Matthew 5, where it admonishes us to not revile, comes full circle back to the beginning admontion to be poor in spirit. Truly, life and progression is one eternal round.

This passage (Matthew 7:21-23) also is the ultimate definition of "taking the Lord's name in vain". This describes those people who claim to be representing the Lord but not doing what His Father wants them to do. "Vain" means "arrogantly and/or without effect". Therefore, those who use His name in order to justify their actions when those actions are not what God wants them to do are guilty of both definitions above - arrogance and ineffectiveness. 
Using the Lord's name without effect (like the non-thinking, reflexive, blasphemous usage that is SO common even among those who profess to be Christian) is bad enough. Doing so to justify improper actions is even worse. 
The important point to make is that NOBODY is immune from this temptation or tendency - except for those who follow the admonition earlier in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:33-37) to "swear not at all, but let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil." In that context, nothing should be done "in thy name" except for sacred ordinances that require such attribution (e.g., "baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost." [Matthew 28:19]) and prophetic statements that truly do express His will ("Thus saith the Lord.").
My understanding of the multiple statements in the Sermon on the Mount regarding claiming to speak and act for the Lord makes me very wary of doing so outside the parameters set in the these passages. I believe that it is important to be careful to give credit where credit is due and avoid arrogance, but also not to begin to claim reflexively to represent Him in all we do - thus embracing the opposite manifestation of the arrogance that occurs when we fail to credit him.
Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:3)

My dad was ecstatic to leave high school and formal education; he worked as a milkman, a type-setter handling hot lead that left his hands rough and calloused, a farm worker between jobs, etc. He retired after 20 years as an elementary school janitor.
He’s one of the most intelligent people I have met in my life, based on the D&C definition. He’s also perhaps the most selfless, humble man I know. I think there's a direct correlation, perhaps even a causation, between humility and spiritual intelligence.

I have found perhaps the truest measure of humility is how someone handles attempts at correction - BOTH correct and incorrect attempts at correction.

I think of pride as the inability to accept criticism as a chance for introspection. I think the truly humble hear criticism (no matter the content and context) and think, “Is that correct?” I think the truly proud hear criticism (no matter the content and context) and think, “Shove it, jerk!” I think most of us vacillate somewhere in the middle of the two extremes, often depending on how much we like and respect the person who is offering the criticism.
I think the truest test of humility is how we react to criticism from those we don’t like or respect - and I certainly need to work on that.

I would aprpeciate reactions to any or all of these quotes.   


Anonymous said...

I like this "I have found perhaps the truest measure of humility is how someone handles attempts at correction - BOTH correct and incorrect attempts at correction." better than that "I think of pride as the inability to accept...etc "

Sorry but some people ARE JERKS and not accepting what they say to me is not about pride but about how much tired I am. Right now for example I would not accept anything that I think is wrong just because I am so freaking tired and because I have a migraine but I am in such a mood that I think I would just burst into laughing. Which is weird because when I am tired I tend to cry like a baby rather than laughing.

Oh Oh...i think I know why...time to post on my own blog.

Gwennaëlle said...

(I wished to comment again but it kept on telling me it was impossible so I am commenting using another mean)

"I think the truest test of humility is how we react to criticism from those we don’t like or respect - and I certainly need to work on that."

I can take criticism from someone I don't like. I just can't from someone I don't respect. I can show enough charity that I don't disregard in a scornful way what I am being said but I can't accept it as "probable" truth. When I don't respect someone (and it takes much for me not to respect someone) it is because of deep and serious moral issues. I am NOT talking about moral sins but about personal values and direction. I can respect someone who I know has a problem with drinking or with intimacy but who acknowledge it. I can't take anything (not even an invitation over to eat lunch or dinner) from someone who is lying. How can I trust this person's judgment when they lie to themselves, to us, to God?
I don't think that I am better than them, though. Rather I am sorry that they lack so much faith or that they did not get a chance to develop a relationship with God personal enough that they feel comfortable with facing their problem.
Do I feel proud that I was able to get over my own stumbling block and not them? Sometimes I probably do but most of the time I feel grateful.
Beside I have learnt that I am not strong enough to help them or be around them. I just can't accept them in my world. I probably need to ask for this strength but there are so many things I need to get strength in and I know how some people are so much better than me at this that I think I will leave this for the next decade or maybe even the next life.

Papa D said...

Thanks for that additional input, Gwennaelle. I agree with the limitation you mention of not being able to be around some people. I would never ask an alcoholic to participate fully in the life of someone who drinks and doesn't understand that the alcoholic simply can't be around alcohol.