If you’ve ever read any of previous blogs, you’ll notice that I spend a lot of time discussing the subject of “humility”. To be honest, I probably talk and write about it a whole lot more than I live it, but none the less, humility has been one of those characteristics I hold with high regard. And because this concept means so much to me, I am extremely conscious of the moments where my pride gets the best of me. I try to be careful not to speak over others, I’m cautious to detect any hint of arrogance in my tone, and I strive to be sensitive in how I assert myself among others. But recently, I’ve been realizing that my aspirations to be humble has often distracted me from actually loving others. I know that’s an odd thing to say, but when character development becomes an ultimate goal, I often care more about how pure my motivations can be than about how much I can serve those around me.
Don’t get me wrong, character development is a huge part of our spiritual formation, but there’s a danger when it’s developed without others in mind. It’s of no value when it becomes an end to itself, when it’s done for the singular purpose of personal health and a clear conscious. Although a strong character will have tangible effects in the way we interact with others, we must always develop it in light of the greatest commandment to love God and to love our neighbour.
Although taming our tongue is an extremely important practice, certain situations require an assertive tone whether we’re being humble about it or not. Often, out of fear that my pride might get the best of me, I would withhold words that could defend someone being falsely accused or another who I could possibly advocate for. I’m coming to realize that loving God and loving our neighbour isn’t always a clean and tidy process. When we’re in a battle, fighting for a cause, and defending the weak, we can’t be overly occupied about whether our character is perfectly in tact.
All of us desire to keep up a certain image of ourselves. Whether it’s the bold and assertive type, the strong and silent or the humble and wise, we tend to react to situations based on the kind of image we want to display. So when a situation arises that requires us to go off script and perform duties that don’t come natural to us, it becomes difficult to detach ourselves from the role we’ve committed to. But in these moments, you’ll realize how much you love someone when you’re willing to go out of character to fight for them. It’s the moments when an unaffectionate father gives you a hug, or when the outspoken chatty friend takes the time to sit and listen. It’s the times when the overly ambitious presses pause to make sure everyone is involved and when the timid places herself at the center of attention to support your case.
I see this is the life of Jesus, who took off his heavenly attire in exchange for human flesh, who in being in very nature God, chose not to use it to his advantage. Although he might have gotten dirt in his finger nails, it never changed who he was. His choice to wear modesty did not take anything away from his power. When you live to serve those around you, your rank in the hierarchy doesn’t effect the way you make decisions. There’s no dilemma in your mind as to whether your position or personality is suitable for scrubbing floors. Jesus didn’t stop to think whether washing his disciples feet was the “Messiah-like” thing to do. At times, we need to forfeit the idealized versions we seek for ourselves, in order to accomplish the task at hand. You might not want to be known as the one who speaks before he thinks, but some situations demand an immediate response. You might not want to speak out of emotion, but at times, the cause might require a passionate reply.
So it’s important for us to examine whether the development of our character is for the glory of God and the betterment of others, or whether it’s actually for ourselves. We can’t allow our need for a clear conscious to hinder us from rising to the occasion and we can’t permit our desire for pure motivations hold us back from being indiginate for justice and zealous for mercy.