Today’s reflection centers around humility. Humility has often received bad press because it is sometimes confused with being fearful or perhaps showing signs of weakness. The Cambridge English Dictionary defines humility this way, “the feeling or attitude that you have no special importance that make you better than others; lack of pride.”
When I consider humility, I often recount the biblical passage that deals with the paradoxical understanding of humility versus exaltation. This passage is located in Matthew’s gospel chapter 23 and verse 12. “And whosoever shall exalt himself or herself shall be abased; and he or she that shall humble himself or herself shall be exalted.
Let’s pretend that you work in an office setting. Your supervisor is one that has little patience and demands strict adherence to office rules and regulations. On the surface this supervisor seems to have the company vision at heart but their attitude toward all of those working in the office alongside of you comes across as belittling and devaluing. As you attempt to adhere to your supervisor’s demands you begin to sense perhaps a feeling of sadness or maybe fear that if you do not perform to your supervisor’s expectations your employment will be short lived. When your boss is out of the office everyone seems to get along just fine but when they return that sadness seems to re-enter the office with them.
I am able to offer such a scenario because I have personally been there. On the surface I resisted the way the office staff, including myself, was treated. I confess a fair amount of resentment and hurt feelings. What I did not know I was receiving at the time became such an amazing gift that has served me throughout my career as an office administrator.
What we observe others doing, depending on our frame of reference, can either help or harm us moving forward. When I became a director of a pastoral care department in a hospital setting all my memories of being micro managed came rushing back into that present moment. A decision was made that I was going to walk a different path. In other words, in that previous setting I was being taught how not to do things. At first this new path was very challenging particularly for those who had never had the opportunity to serve on a staff of a non-micro manager.
What I gained on this new path was an understanding of the affects of humility. Think about it. If I choose to lord my authority over you because of the position I hold, chances are you may resist that authority for a while. Should you buckle beneath that authority and remain present, its just possible that the relationship between us will be fear based. On the other hand, should I approach you with humility seeking a genuine relationship, a new thought may register within you. You may ask, “can I trust this person or not?” Such a question is necessary for your observations to continue. If their humility is genuine then your estimation of that person grows remarkably.
Humility is also associated with giving. To give of yourself in love seeking to lift up the other out of a pure heart will come back to bless you in ways not yet considered. Exaltation is not the reward for humility. If one truly humbles himself, the reward will be the exaltation of the other.