A couple of weeks ago I led a bible study with my kids on humility. This is a topic I have wanted to tackle with them more than just a comment here and there, because it is so important to the Christian faith. My children don’t go around talking about how great they are at this or that, but there are times when the deceptive hint of pride peeks out with comments such as, “So and So really didn’t contribute anything to the game–he was such a slacker–did you see how much effort I put in?” I understand what it means to be frustrated by another’s effort in a team sport, but sometimes I sense a lack of grace for someone who is having a bad day on the field–which my child may have had a week ago, but forgotten. Or, “Mom, do you see what that girl is wearing?” (more surprise than condescending, but if left unchecked it can grow into that). Those comments reveal to me this sense of “better than.” Our kids know what it means to outright brag, because they experience it with others at school and on the soccer field, but I realized they may not understand humility:
To me, humility is a vast topic that boils down to one element: remembering that the gifts and talents that God has given us are from him, and not of our own accord. From that, a sense of “placement” occurs. I am not “above” that other person because I have a gift that excels their gift, because it is not my gift to be proud of, but Gods. Pride and boasting come from this feeling that we are better or “above” someone because we are better than them in a particular area, or they are “less than.” When she was younger our daughter Maddie would wait until we were done disciplining another child and sweetly say, “But I’m doing great in that area right?” In other words, “Notice me! Notice how good I am compared to them!”
Interestingly enough, our children tend to express verbally what we adults still struggle with inwardly. I may not seem boastful to you, but that’s because you don’t see my heart. I have learned to keep my thoughts to myself. I deceive myself, because I think I am doing fine in this area, until a thought becomes a casual off the cuff remark about someone who is in my opinion making bad choices in their life, or is “doing things differently” than I would…..and my pride is fully exposed. I want to shout out, “But I am doing great in that area right?” Not really, but I do want that recognition from the world, or from God that I am not doing what that person is. I also easily forget my own sin in the light of someone elses. How easy it is for me to judge.
Who am I to judge?
Sometimes I catch myself in this wayward thinking when I am peacefully strolling the isles of the grocery store, with my cold Diet Pepsi that I had plenty of time to stop and get, because my kids are all in school. I am deep in thought about which brand of peanut butter I would like to bring home today–the non-organic but on sale? Or the organic but a little pricier….when all of a sudden down the aisle appears a mom with three kids attached to her cart and body, one with food all over his face, and she is snapping at them, and at least two are crying. Hmmm, a thought flicks through my brain, that mom is awfully crabby today. At that moment I am QUICKLY brought back into the reality that that scene was me just a few short years ago when I didn’t have the luxury of school or older more independent children to allow me to grocery shop all alone. I am immediately ashamed of my fleeting but real thought towards that mom, and I know because God has a sense of humor and loves me that I will probably have about 3 humility-defining moments in the next week with my children.
I often tell my kids, “You can be critical of something your brother or sister is doing when you have figured out how to be perfect and are no longer making any mistakes yourself.” Which I usually followed up with, “You just worry about yourself.”
YOU JUST WORRY ABOUT YOURSELF. That is what I need to recite to myself daily (maybe hourly).
So what I tell my children is just as applicable for me:
~Don’t judge outward appearances
~Have grace when someone is not performing in the way you think they should
~Remember your own sin and work on that
~Don’t forget you may have just been or will be in someone’s shoes that you are judging
Humility is realizing I do not have it all figured out, and acknowledging that there is only one person who walked on earth that did.
Thank you Jesus that I don’t have to be perfect, and that I am in the same boat of mistakes with everyone around me. You are the only one not in the boat, and I need to just keep my eyes fixed on you. Please help me to have a spirit of humility with my husband, my children, and my neighbors. Gently reveal to me the areas where I need a little or a lot of work, give me perspective on my place in the world, and thank you for using the lessons I want to teach my children to teach me.