Antithesis: A person or thing that is the direct opposite of something else.
Sometime it’s easier to understand a concept by looking at a well known antithesis of that concept.
So let’s talk about Humility today.
Do I have your attention yet?
If not, watch this clip and wait for the uproarious laughter at :20 seconds in.
Now that I shamelessly leveraged politics to earn your attention, let’s talk about humility. Donald Trump serves as a great antithesis of humility and has for decades.
But we need a positive definition of humility and that’s what Pastor C.J. Mahaney writes about in his foundational book, Humility: True Greatness.
On page 22, Mahaney says that “Humility is honestly assessing ourselves in light of God’s holiness and our sinfulness.”
The importance of this topic is summed up by John Stott, quoted on page 64, “In every step of our Christian growth and maturity, and throughout every aspect of our Christian obedience and service, our greatest foe is pride and our greatest ally is humility.”
There are several book reviews for Mahaney’s book that focus on the pastoral, Christian appeal of this work. For example, here’s a great one on challies.com, yet I’d like to point out that the pursuit of humility should be a universal cultural pursuit because face it, almost no one likes spending time with an arrogant turd.
As a committed Christian, I truly appreciate the spiritual perspective of parts one and two of this book, and they are outlined in the previously linked book review. But for those reading this post who don’t share an impetus for humility because Christ commands it, what are some practical habits to build this virtue?
Here are five practices that I pulled from part three of this book that are valuable no matter your worldview.
First, start each day with an attitude of gratitude. I may be showcasing my lack of humility by choosing this one to write about because it’s one of the practices that I already implement myself, but this way I can report results. I write down three things each morning in a journal that I’m thankful for from the day before. This is a modification of the “Five Minute Journal” which I may switch to soon. Mahaney puts the value of this practice this way (pg.71):
What would happen if I crossed your path tomorrow morning? Would I encounter someone who was an alert and thankful observer of answered prayer, someone who in a pronounced way was grateful for God’s many mercies?
Second, seize your commute! You’ve heard of Carpe Diem, well this is Carpe Commute. Mahaney quotes census figures that the average worker has 50 minutes of commute time per day. So rather than filling ones mind with the Constantly Negative News, this is an opportunity to take the focus off one’s self. Mahaney recommends reflecting on scripture during this time. William Wilberforce, the architect of abolition in Great Britain’s 18th century empire, used his mile walks to Parliament to memorize Psalm 119, all 176 verses (pg 74).
Third, at the end of the day, realize that sleep represents our need for renewal. No one is able to go through life entirely self sustained. We rely on others, on sleep, on food, and the amenities of modern life and realizing this as a metaphor of our reliance combats pride.
Fourth, we need to cultivate an attitude that is others focused. This theme runs through the entire book. Christ defined greatness as being a servant to all. In Philippians 2:8 we read that he “humbled himself to death, even death on a cross.” This act of selfless love was atonement for our sins in a way that is unfathomable to us humans in many ways. But again, whether you’re a Christian or not, being others focused brings out the best in them and diminishes our arrogance.
Fifth, play golf, play a lot of golf. This one is direct counsel from C.J. Mahaney, and I’m not about to argue. But in all seriousness, participating in something in which you’re not the best at will be a reminder that each person is fallible and not to the point that they want to be yet.
I hope this post encouraged you to think through your life and identify patterns of pride approaching you. This book has quite a number of great habits like these for you and I to implement, these five only scratch the surface of our pursuit of humility.
Some may say that humility isn’t needed in this culture, and they can quote Trump as a prime example. If that’s your opinion, I ask you to read this book and think about an eternal perspective of success and what truly matters.
Until next week,
Keep reading friends!
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