I do not wear humility well. I usually find modesty to be an unnatural fit and will shy away from experiences that force me to adopt these traits. This may stem from self-consciousness as much as it does pride. There are limited areas of life in which I truly feel confident and, like most, I seek out things that give me confidence rather than touch on my insecurities. I will say this, when my insecurities come up against my passions they are without any hope of victory. Those things which spark my passion also spark my confidence and this can be beautiful and powerful. It can also be my downfall.
One of the greatest challenges to humility is passion. To know even a taste of what God created a person for can make one reckless and proud. Recognizing one’s passions is directly followed by the urge to “gift” others with your knowledge and influence them to work towards a shared vision or goal.
That desire is not innately wrong or selfish. It is natural to want to be able to express your heart in a way that engages others. My heart beats for justice and the overflow of that is evident in all conversations of depth. The weight of my passions are something I rarely can restrain. Good can come of that. Justice can come of that. But so can pride.
It is vital that we temper our passions with self-reflection and humility. I am confident that God has commissioned me to live a life in pursuit of justice for victims of oppression, abuse, and those living in extreme poverty. I have always known this. My story rarely changes but the means through which I convey it are ever-evolving. I would hope that, over the years, my message has become more mature and humble. I’m sure there is still work to be done.
Having new experiences laid before us is crucial to our spiritual growth. To a degree, I have been a voice of authority and knowledge within my circles, at least as it has pertained to my particular passions. With some embarrassment, I will admit that part of me revels in that. There is a euphoria that is born out of having people look to you for answers or recognize you as someone they might learn from. Unfortunately, there is a point where living in this role can cause a person to forget what it means to take a posture of humility or learning. If one does not make a point to take these postures, life will often do it for them. Failed marriages, loss of jobs and homes, broken friendships and redirected dreams can force humility upon us.
I identify myself as someone who will go anywhere and do anything if it means serving others and doing what God has called me to do. Want me to teach in Mozambique? Let’s hop a flight today. Serve at a children’s home in Haiti? I can pack in an hour. It is so simple when the circumstances are ones of my choice. When I choose to put myself in certain conditions. But what about when they are chosen for us? The experiences we invite and the experiences that confront us are survived much more easily if we live in a continued place of learning. Our ability to fulfill our roles in life and serve others can only be strengthened by a posture of humility.
It is a wonderful thing to assume the role God intended for you—if it is done in God’s timing and without a propensity for self-exaltation. One should cherish the times where they can learn and grow from the wisdom of others. If we prematurely assume the honor of being a teacher we are dong a disservice to ourselves and those we would presume to teach. The same can be said for prophets, missionaries and advocates. This is particularly true for those who feel called to roles that require great acts of service. It is part of the reason that forging relationships is so vital to the work of justice and mercy. This work must be less about stepping into our perceived roles and more about cultivating relationships of mutual respect.
We must always be cautious of the inclination to assign the roles of “servant” and “person in need of service”. Without this caution we run the risk of dehumanizing others and creating “projects” out of those we are called to love. This awareness protects the dignity of those being served but it also protects the person doing the serving—the latter from the fallacy of unassailable spirituality and holiness. You are much less likely to run the risk of pride when you recognize your own capacity to fail, to be hurt and to be in need of the service of others.
It is an immeasurable blessing to be given the opportunity to serve. We cannot allow this blessings to be diluted by arrogance. Though the fit may be unnatural we must lean into the uncomfortable and allow ourselves the gift of humility.
This article was originally featured in Spring 2012 issue of The Cry – A quarterly journal that shares the stories of those who suffer under poverty and Injustice.