Humility Check-up

How humble are you? Let’s say, on a scale of 1 – 10 … 1 being the extreme of arrogance and pride and 10 being Jesus Himself … where would you sit? It feels like a bit of a trick question really, doesn’t it? How does one adequately reflect on their humility levels … in all humility!?

Humility is the act of valuing the dignity of others more highly than your own. Beyond just ‘thinking of others before yourself’ it’s actually surrendering your dignity; your ‘image’ in the eyes of others. It’s laying yourself down for the sake of bringing dignity to those around you. In Philippians 2, Paul talks about us having the same “mindset” as Christ and goes on to describe Jesus’ humility … first, to come to earth as a man (even though He is God) and secondly, to submit Himself to death on a cross (the most humiliating of deaths).

It takes humility to admit a lack of humility … and it is also the nature of pride to blind us to the ways in which a lack of humility presents itself in our lives.

So, time for a humility check-up! Maybe some of these things will highlight the areas for us where humility is most lacking.

You might be lacking in humility if …

  1. You boast in yourself
    Proverbs 27:2 says “Let another praise you, and not your own mouth …” We all react negatively to someone blowing their own trumpet but a sign of pride at work in our lives is the need to self-promote. Do you find yourself boasting and bragging? Do you need to receive credit for the things you’ve done or said or the part you’ve played in another person’s success?
  2. You get defensive
    To a certain extent, defensiveness is just reactive boasting. We are defending an incorrect perception, justifying our own actions or acting to ensure we don’t appear wrong, weak or lacking in anyway. “I was not!” “It was her idea!” Defensiveness (which is different to working together to reach mutual understanding) is a form of appearance management that often comes out our mouths in sharp tones and biting remarks.
  3. You fight or get angry
    The substance of fighting is very nearly ‘always’ a sense of selfishness – beyond just defending ourselves we move to an aggressive desire to get our way, to be right. A lack of humility sees us convinced that those things are the most important – beyond caring for others. We very rarely fight on behalf of another person – we aren’t fighting for their dignity, we’re fighting for our own. Anger is a complete disregard for the heart of another person, it is to set your heart against them in hatred and aggression.
  4. You avoid confrontation
    On the flip side – avoiding confrontation can be just as much a reflection of a lack of humility as fighting. Instead of putting our own needs first and fighting FOR something we elevate the potential for our own discomfort, embarrassment, awkwardness or hurt over bringing resolve to interactions or relationships. When conflict is non-combative it is actually a healthy part of life and relationship. It’s in those moments of communication, compromise and negotiation that we bring about the best ideas and the strongest relational ties.
  5. You are impatient or intolerant
    STOP! I know what you’re thinking! “I wouldn’t be so impatient or intolerant if other people weren’t so annoying and intolerable!!” (Yes, I can read your minds – creepy isn’t it?) Impatience and intolerance are emotional reactions to things not happening like we would want or in the time frame we want. It is all about us. Humility requires that we care less about our own needs and our own plans in deference to care and concern for others.
  6. You make bad choices
    Humility breeds wisdom. Humility encourages us to seek wise counsel, to submit ourselves to another’s expertise or experience, to ask questions and admit that we don’t know it all or may not have all we need in and of ourselves to navigate life successfully. Humility sees us valuing the best decision over our need to look like we have it all sorted.
  7. You give in to insecurity
    There’s not a person on the planet who hasn’t had moments of feeling insecure, unsure, nervous, inadequate or embarrassed. It’s all part of the human experience!! But when we give in to insecurity in a situation, we have allowed the protection of our own dignity to override whatever the potential outcome might be. When we don’t go and speak to a new person at church or we don’t pray out loud in a group or we don’t offer to help in a team because we feel insecure, we are saying that the welcome of the new person, the ministry to others, the gift of serving other people is less important than our own dignity. Timidity and shyness are not synonyms for meekness and humility.
  8. You hold a grudge
    Our inability to forgive or to move on from offense can reflect a lack of humility. It is not to minimise the hurt or the wounding that we experience at the hands of others – either carelessly or intentionally – but we hang on to the idea that our wounding requires that someone else would pay, that they would be wounded also. Aside from the fact that often the objects of our grudges or un-forgiveness don’t even realise they are – we bind ourselves up in bitterness and offense which will only grow poisonous fruit in our own lives.
  9. You are a worrier (**mutters under breath*** “control freak”)
    Pride tells us that we need things to be how we need things to be and the only way to assure that is to do them ourselves. While we acknowledge that different people have varying capacity and skills to keep things in order and make them run smoothly, could it be that our need for control stems more from a lack of humility? Are we working to protect our dignity and serve ourselves rather than trusting others and trusting God?
  10. You are unteachable
    I don’t need to tell you how annoying those people are who seem to know everything about everything …always! Of course, I’m not talking about you – but I’m sure you know people like this! Or perhaps, just perhaps, you have an unteachable spirit yourself sometimes too. When we dismiss others as having nothing to teach us, when we are not open to input in our lives, when we mentally write people off for being too old, too young, too female, too something and don’t entertain the possibility that we could learn – we reflect a hardened heart and an unteachable spirit. Prov 12:1 says those who hate correction are stupid (yep, Bible word … “stupid”!!). A lack of humility can make us stupid.
  11. You are arrogant
    Arrogance is when a lack of humility seeps out of your pores! Those who are boastful, proud, haughty, self-righteous, never ever ever ever wrong (and even if they are wrong and they know they’re wrong they manage to twist and turn things around to make it look like they were not wrong!) are demonstrating a lack of humility that will inevitably be their undoing. We know people like that, right? But maybe, if someone ever intimates to you that you are appearing even the slightest bit arrogant, humility might cause you to self assess and make some corrections (rather than defend, fight, get angry, blame … etc).
  12. You have secrets
    What do you try and cover up? What are you desperately hoping no one ever finds out about you? What character trait, behaviour, addiction, relationship or action would you hate to have another person know about? When we are actively seeking to appearance-manage, to coordinate our own P.R. and Press we are protecting our dignity above even the truth! Humility doesn’t require public announcements in the local paper, but it also doesn’t allow for secrecy and cover ups.
  13. You are ungenerous
    Not just with your money or your things, but with your words and your time and your interest. Do you struggle to encourage others because you don’t want them to look better at something than you? Are you holding back on contributing to another person’s life – practically or relationally – because it will cost you too much, or because they will then have more than you? Humility requires sacrifice.

Father God, I want to grow to be more like Jesus – open the eyes and ears of my heart – reveal the areas of my life where I lack humility. Amen.

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navigating life’s rough water


Have you ever been whitewater rafting? Its a high adrenalin activity where you jump in an inflatable raft and hurtle down a river. The whitewater or rough patches of water come where high current waters hit rocks, obstacles and banks and, when combined with significant drops, they make navigation quite difficult. It’s considered an extreme sport. 
When you make the decision to pay someone to let you risk your life in this fashion, you are given a guide or a navigator. He or she gives you the basic instructions and lets you know the directions they’ll be shouting at you as they try and get you to the end of the river run in one piece. 

A friend and I had this experience in New Zealand a few years back. The water was freezing and the terror real in amongst the patches of smooth water where we floated merrily along and were able to take in the stunning views and peaceful surrounds. 

I think in life as in whitewater rafting the role of navigator or guide is crucial. But I think in life, we are much less attuned to our need to have one or be one – in whitewater rafting there’s a sense your life depends on the guide – you’re listening and responsive!

Parents, mentors, teachers, leaders and anyone older or more experienced than ourselves can be as life impacting as a navigator guiding us down a dangerous river. 

“Up ahead there is a sharp drop and then the current will want to pull us left … When you hear me call it, we’re going to want all of us at the back of the raft and then we’re going to be ready to paddle out.” The navigator has been down this river before. The navigator has tried or seen different ways to handle this potential danger spot and has some tips on how to get through it most safely. The navigator knows and embraces their role to keep all participants safe while also letting them have an exciting adventure. 

There is nothing that we encounter on the ‘river’ of life that others haven’t seen or experienced before us. What a tragedy it is as adults to watch young people fall into the same traps, be surprised by the same big drops or to be so furiously paddling through smooth waters they don’t take time to enjoy them. 

We need to embrace our role as navigators for anyone who would come behind us. Yes, there is a need for people to sometimes learn through experience of failure or error but to let others fly head long into what we know to be dangerous or damaging without at least giving a shout out is neglectful and, well, mean. 

We need to nurture relationships that position us to be influential voices in another’s life. I feel like my greatest success in this area has come through honest sharing of my failures and wounding. I once had a young person say of a particular part of their journey that was similar to mine “I just want to make sure I don’t do what you did” – it stung a little, but ultimately? I don’t want them to do what I did either. 

We need to invite the navigator to speak into our lives and circumstances. We need to embrace with humility the learning and wisdom others can impart from their journey.

 

AS FAR AS IT DEPENDS ON YOU – #5 Grow in Humility

Without a doubt the greatest enemy of good, healthy, thriving relationships is … you!! It’s me! Ourselves. Our self-focus and our pride will, time and again, derail our ability to do relationships well.

We easily identify that in other people – in fact, you’ve probably even said it before in a heated exchange or about someone “all you do is think about yourself” or “why can’t you ever just admit that you’re wrong”!?

Pride is an expression of our selfishness because it is birthed out of our desire to either improve the way we feel about ourselves or protect the way we feel about ourselves. Continue reading

Understanding Others #4 – “Help Me Understand”

In our quest to better understand one another an awareness of temperaments and personality types is a useful tool (you can read about them more here). None of these diagnostic instruments can DEFINE you and aren’t intended to PIGEON HOLE you but they can give us great insight into ourselves and one another. We can learn more about the kind of environments where some people will thrive and where others would be completely overwhelmed. We can appreciate that people will engage differently in social situations, that they will be motivated to action in diverse ways and that the way they communicate (talk, listen, respond or react) will be unique to their way of perceiving and receiving information and interpersonal nuances.

As I’ve previously mentioned, understanding firstly myself and then others in this way has been transformational – to my self-acceptance and appreciation, to all of my relationships, to the way I lead and teach, to the way I counsel others, to the way I give instructions and feedback … to virtually every area of my life that involves any kind of interaction with other people.

I’m sure you’ve all reached that point in an interaction with another person (or even an observance of them from afar) where you exclaim “I just don’t understand you!” – either out loud or just to yourself.

“I don’t understand why you would / wouldn’t do that!”

“I don’t understand how you can react that way.”

“I don’t understand why you made that decision.”

“I don’t understand how you so completely misunderstood me!”

“I don’t understand what you’re asking.”

“I don’t understand where you’re coming from.”

“I don’t understand why this matters so much to you.”

“I don’t understand … I’m sure you can fill in this gap yourself…”

Whilst for the most part, this indicates that we’ve come to the end – we’re exhausted, we’re overwhelmed, we’re sick of it: “I don’t understand…” can actually be a very empowering place to find ourselves if we let it be.

“I don’t understand …” is the gateway to “Help me understand” which is the key to unlocking a whole new level of interacting and an entirely different dimension to your relationships.

Solomon says, “though it cost you all you have; get understanding” and the reality is it might only cost you the time to say, “Help me understand.” It really isn’t that high a price to pay for the significant relational improvement that could happen as a result.

When we say “help me understand” we demonstrate that we place a high value on the relationship. When we say “help me understand” we are giving the other person an opportunity to explain themselves to US but also to understand themselves some more as they do. When we say “help me understand” we are giving ourselves tools for better interactions next time, for avoiding coming back to the same old place (y’know … the same old place!) for establishing a new way of tackling an old topic. When we say “help me understand” we are demonstrating a level of grace and submission that are necessary for healthy and helpful human interactions.

Try it out for yourself! Next time you find yourself frustrated, confused, angered or despondent over another person’s attitudes, action or speech; next time you’re in the middle of one of those circular arguments that inevitably escalate; next time you feel the disappointment of another person toward you or fear that you’ve ‘done something wrong’ … try these three words.

“Help me understand.”

More in this series
Understanding Others #1
Understanding Others #2
Understanding Others #3