“O Lord, It’s Hard to be Humble!”
I was raised in a home where one child struggled to make it through school—not because of lack of smarts, but because of the system—and the other was able to achieve high grades with minimal effort. I was the second one.
Unfortunately, the classes to help the struggling student, which are everywhere today, and counselling to assist the parents in dealing with the situation, were not around. And so, my parents dealt with it in their own way. They offered minimal praise for my accomplishments—not wanting to hurt their other child—and maximum praise for my sibling’s.
As a result, I grew up feeling like a complete failure, struggling to please anyone and everyone but always feeling incapable, unloved and unwanted. These self-esteem issues led me down a path into personal problems in almost all my relationships, and any career goals, and left me with the feeling that I could never be anyone of importance at all.
Through the years, I’ve managed to counteract most of those feelings with hours and hours and hours of therapy and self-examination. As the years have gone on, I’ve learned an awful lot about life and acquired many skills, some through the assistance of others, and some simply self-taught. As a result, my confidence level in these fields is pretty strong. But sometimes this causes problems.
Because of the work I’ve had to go through to get myself to where I am today, I sometimes feel pride creeping into my body. While I don’t think pride in one’s accomplishments is necessarily a bad thing, ‘arrogant’ pride is. And that’s what I ( and I think many others) have to watch out for. Confidence is one thing. Arrogance is another.
Confident pride is okay. It’s a self-pat on the back for a job well done. Arrogant pride can sometimes sound Ike boasting, and it can even seek to put others down to make oneself feel even better.
There’s an old Chinese proverb that goes, “The empty vessel makes the loudest sound.”
When one contemplates that in this context, those slips into arrogance speak of my childhood, youth and young adulthood, right up to my parents’ deaths, where my empty, lost soul reached out through boasting to feel any sense of value or confidence in my otherwise hollow world. And so I was trying to convince myself that I was worthy, something I didn’t feel at all.
Confident pride came along very slowly. It happened through study, the direction of others and seeming ‘chance’. But there never really is ‘chance’, is there? Nothing happens without the help of God. Nothing.
At this stage of my life, I realize confident pride is really my reward for paying attention to the roadsigns and angels whom God placed around me to neutralize my childhood situation.
And so now, it’s time I turned that more and more into humility, which is its spiritual counterpart. For there would be no accomplishments if I had not listened to God’s direction as I journeyed along the rocky road of my life. No success at all.
As Lent tightens its belt around us, take a look at your life, and how you respond to your successes. Do you sometimes find yourself slipping into arrogant pride, boasting of ‘your’ success? Or do you realize that God has had a hand in all that you have achieved, leading you along, carrying you over the obstacles and cheering you on as you ran the race toward success?
On this day, examine your humility level. If you are proud of your achievements, stop and give thanks to the One who got you to the podium of your success. Turn your pride into humility and get down on your knees and thank God for the greatness of His gifts and assistance in your life.
For without Him, you would never have achieved your goals.