How To Be Humble

A couple days ago, I posted some thoughts I had about humility.  I said there that while I understood the need for and goodness of humility, I did not know how to achieve it.  In other words, I said that it is hard to be humble.  Somehow, I restrained myself from adding this song to the post:

As it turns out, I did come across one way to be humble.  I think I did, anyway.  I was practicing guitar after I wrote that post.  I’ve been struggling with the guitar since at least 2002.  I taught myself to do the open chords back then, but I stopped messing with it once I moved to California because I wasn’t needed; all the players in the church were better than I.  It came back into my orbit a few years ago, though.  Last year I got an electric guitar for Christmas (a present from my wife; I gave her the money to buy it for me!).  I got a few lessons as well and have been learning to do lead.  I’ve gotten much better at it over the past year.  I’m very pleased with how I’ve learned to “see” the scales on the fretboard and to understand enough music theory to get by, both of which were things I never thought I’d ever do.

But while I’m pleased with my progress, I’m not overly-pleased by it.  I know that there are guys and gals out there who are lightyears beyond me and always will be.  My guitar instructor said as much, in fact.  He said there are seven-year-olds on YouTube who can smoke him, and if those kids can smoke him they can annihilate me.  (I can’t show you the video in which he says this because it’s behind a paywall, but here he is doing a song with his daughter.)

What he further said, though, is that it doesn’t matter how better other people are than you, and that it also doesn’t matter how better you are than other people.  All that matters is that you are growing.  And I totally dug that.

Here’s the thing, though: I think I dug it so much because I know I’m not good at guitar (which you can see in the final video; I was forced to play an unfamiliar shape that night, which is why I made as many mistakes as I did, but truth be told, I probably would have made mistakes even if I had been playing a familiar shape).  Knowing that I’m not that good, knowing that there is no way I can win any type of comparison or contest, frees me from ever thinking about being good/winning.  It frees me to be happy in the moment.

I think what I need to do, then, is apply that same idea to the things I’m good at (or think I’m good at).  If I realize I’m not nearly as good at those things as I think I am, if I realize I’m not really “good” at them at all and will never win any meaningful comparison or contest with them, then I might be freed from all pride and all vanity.  Then I might be able to be humble, hard as it is.  Then I might be able to do what I was made by God to do: perform the best I can and be happy with that.

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Ever More Humble

Today’s meanderings have brought me several references to humility.  First, I saw this retweeted by a friend:

That quote not only promotes humility but condemns vanity.  I caught both, particularly as they related to spiritual leadership.

Then I was reading Tim Keller’s Prayer.

Image result for prayer tim keller

I can’t give any specific quotes here, but I again caught several references to thinking too much about self and how so doing skews prayer.

And then, as if Keller hadn’t done enough damage, he tossed this one out on Twitter.

This was not only a reference to humility, but a reference which possibly undermined the others.  After all, if true humility means I stop connected every experience with myself, then maybe I should conclude that the previous two encounters with humility weren’t about me.  It’s very much like this song:

The wisdom of that last tweet notwithstanding, the truth of the matter is that I need to give some thought to humility.  I think all spiritual leaders need to give some thought to humility.  It is hard to be humble in spiritual leadership because so much of spiritual leadership centers (or at least seems to) on personality.

Take the title of this blog for example.  I named it after me.  It is my name.  It is my name in a particularly arrogant form (not just “Doug McCoy”, which is what I normally call myself, but “Douglas A McCoy”; this was chosen, by the way, because dougmccoy.com as already taken).  And I didn’t want to name it that.  But I also didn’t want to name it anything else.  I thought about calling it “The Walk With God” or “The Life Of Faith” or something less me, but I thought that was kind of arrogant as well.  That could be interpreted as me thinking I alone had knowledge of the walk God, that all you needed to know about the life of faith could come from me.

And there are several dilemmas like that in ministry.  There are several opportunities to put myself out alongside my God-given message, to put myself out even more than or above my message.  And that dilemma really distresses me.  The thought that I might not be humble or “humble enough” (whatever that means) gives me serious pause.  I know some people will find this concern ridiculous; I think, in fact, it was ridiculed in this line on an episode of The Simpsons:

But it is a concern I have nonetheless.

And I think it is possible.  I think it is possible to be ever more humble.  I think it is definitely possible to deliver my God-given message without making myself a part of the delivery.  I just don’t know how to do it yet.  Please give me a little mercy on that, and I’ll do the same for you.