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Thursday, February 14, 2013, 11:24 AM
I can often lack in humility. So I am using Lent this year as an opportunity to grow in humility. But, for all the reasons I explained yesterday, I am not “trying to be more humble” or “trying to grow in humility” because I have no way of gauging or measuring how to “be more humble”; I don’t know when I am actually “being more humble” or “growing in humility.” I may be aware from time to time when I am failing at humility, but I am usually not aware, or able to tell when I am succeeding at it.
I wrote a lot about humility–what it is and what it isn’t–but frankly it is more than I need to say here. Maybe I’ll post it someday or organize it into an essay, and I have to admit, my ego really hates to cut it, but it is pages and pages of brilliant, yet unnecessary, information. Basically, I concluded that humility is:
1) an honest appraisal of one’s abilities and limitations–a balanced honesty about oneself;
2) an expression of generosity and/or love; therefore, is social in nature–I cannot be humble to myself or by myself, but I can only be humble in how I relate to others.
Now the irony for me, and I doubt that I am unique, is that the source of my lack of humility often stems from the gifts I have. I am educated, smart, a good speaker, usually a good writer, and knowing these things doesn’t mean I am not humble; yet, every time I lack humility, it is because I am painfully aware of these things.
Here’s two common ways my lack of humility can play out:
1) Somebody says something that is wrong, either in person, or on a social network like Facebook. I know it is wrong, I know the facts, so I take it upon myself to correct that person–publicly. I convince myself I am giving them the benefit of my knowledge, but what I am doing is being a “know-it-all” and deciding that it is my job to correct everyone else who make mistakes–especially when the conclusion of those mistakes leads to an idea or statement with which I disagree. So, the real reason I am correcting them–publicly–is because they don’t agree with me, I am showing them where they are wrong, so that they will stop thinking like they do, and start thinking like me. They don’t like being corrected–publicly–and they either try to save face by presenting information they have or believe is correct, or just dismissing any information and making it clear that they are going to believe what they want regardless of facts or information. The arrogance is in thinking it is my job to correct others. That is not my job, especially when the correction is based on opinion, or used to justify my own, or argue against another’s, opinion.
2) The other way my lack of humility can play out is when someone is having a problem. I know psychology and have experience counseling and my first, gut reaction to hearing someone with a problem is to want to fix it. But it is not my job to fix problems unless they ask me to fix it. God actually told me that one day when we were hanging out. He said he only helps when asked, not because he doesn’t care, and not because he doesn’t want to help, but because out of his love, he chooses to respect free will above his gut-reaction to help. Then he told me that’s what he wants me to do–respect others enough to let them figure out they need help, and to let them ask for help, because unsolicited advice is always heard as criticism. (I’ll admit, it made more sense when he said it to me, then in me trying to say it to you now.)
The two examples above of how I often lack humility have one thing in common of the part of the person I was either “correcting” or “helping”: they weren’t looking for what I was offering them. Frankly, I’ve learned that most people don’t want others to fix their problems, they just want to feel like they’ve been heard. When someone tells me their problems, they aren’t expecting me to fix them, they are hoping I respond in a way that affirms that I hear them and that I understand. This is also probably true for the person who says or posts something I think or know is wrong. They aren’t looking to write facts, or be corrected, or even be right (whether they think they are or not) they are just expressing a statement because they want to be heard.
So the most humble thing I can do is to LISTEN! God made me with two ears and one mouth for a reason–maybe it’s so I can listen more than I talk. This means when someone else is talking, I’m not just politely waiting for my chance to talk, but I am actually paying attention to what that person is saying. It also means I am not trying to expose where they are wrong, but I am trying to understand what they are saying and what they are feeling. They want to be heard (not just audibly, but they want to feel understood) and part of humility is generosity, so I am being generous with them by hearing them because the alternative is to decide what I think and feel is more important then what they think and feel and that lacks humility.
Okay, this is with all the stuff cut out and it’s still getting away from me, so let’s get to main part. Regardless of what you decide humility is for yourself, I have chosen to define for me as I listed it above. So how do I quantify it?
So, if I want express humility as I understand it, here are the very real things I am going to try to do:
1) When someone is talking or writing, ask clarification questions to better understand why they are saying what they are saying.
2) Do not correct anyone–especially publicly–unless failure to do so would result in someone being injured or hurt (physically, emotionally, or spiritually).
3) Do not try and help someone who is not asking for help. If I’m unclear if they are asking for help or not, I can always ask them if they want me to help, or what can I do to help, but I don’t just decide they need my help.
4) Everybody is wrong from time to time, and most of these errors aren’t hurting anyone. Give others the grace to be wrong (unless their error will cause injury to another).
5) Wait to be asked if I know the answer– I do not have to say the answer just because I know the answer.
6) Let others have the spotlight–I can let others be smart, funny, helpful, or even the center of attention without it diminishing me in any way. I don’t always have to outshine others, but can be content to let others shine without me feeling threatened or left out.
7) Repeat often that humility is not thinking less about myself, but thinking about myself less.
8) Pray. Prayer is an act of humility. When we pray to God and ask for help, we admit that we cannot do it alone and we put God in a position where He can help us. It may be hard for some of us to even ask for help, but it is often even harder to let ourselves be helped.
This of course is not an exhaustive list, but a good place to start. I am open to any suggestions or things to add to my list.