The Power of Humility
Have you ever been publically humiliated? It is a horrible experience. I am not sure what is worse, having people laugh at you or that horrible sinking rock like feeling of shame that sits in the pit of your stomach for days afterword. I am sure that there are wise sage-like people out there that will tell us that it is good for us to go through humiliating circumstances. They will reassure us that it shapes our character and helps us to get over our self pride. Somehow, those words really don’t help me all that much. Sounds too much like something my father would say to me as I was learning all those “life lessons” while I was growing up.
Let’s face it, humiliation is painful. It scares us. It creates huge obstacles to trust and openness in our lives. Isn’t there some other way for God to build or character? It is interesting though that the word humiliation has the same root as humility – a characteristic that Christians revere. Both have to do with being made or brought low or down. In the case of humiliation, it is your pride or dignity that is brought down. In the case of humility, it is your character (note: not your self-worth) being brought low/down. The difficulty for us is the fact that our pride and dignity are so closely connected to our character and self-value that one cannot be brought low without the other. Since our pride and dignity are often defined by cultural influences outside the thoughts or opinions of God, our character (and with it our identity and self-value) become enslaved to our pride and dignity. Our pride and dignity are in turn are ruled by the world around us. Not a good situation to be in. What we need is to severe the cords that bind our dignity and pride to the whimsical standards of the world and learn to fasten them to God’s values, thoughts, and opinions. Not any easy thing to do. Yet Jesus gave us a great example. When we look at the Easter story, one huge truth stares out at us. Jesus was humiliated for my sake. His dignity, His reputation, His image, His standing in the world; all of it was trashed on my account. Often, we focus on the pain that Jesus went through. But I wonder if the humiliation was far worse? How could Jesus have chosen to go through that? The answer lies somewhere in this vital truth; The humiliation, pain, and suffering wasn’t as important to him as us experiencing God’s love and forgiveness. People spitting, laughing, throwing rocks, insults etc.. it just didn’t compare. Jesus’ pride was connected to how fully he could be obedient to God. His dignity was based on God’s feelings and thoughts towards him, not what the world thought. This is a great lesson for us to learn. To value the experiencing of God’s love and forgiveness (by me and others) so highly that we are willing to sacrifice all else for it. To connect our pride and dignity to this very task. Then, when the world assails us, when they laugh or mock or even spit in our faces, it just won’t seem to matter. For our pride, dignity, self-worth, and character will not be under their control.