Recognition versus Humility

If you are recognized for your humility – and enjoy being the center of attention – have your forfeited your humility for the sake of recognition?

As Christians, we are encouraged to be humble. In fact, according to the Bible, we are challenged to walk humbly with our God.

Being humble means not being proud or haughty, nor arrogant or assertive. A humble person is a submissive person who allows him or herself to be ranked low in the pecking order.

Right off the bat, I have problems with one of those things we’re not supposed to be, and one of the things we are supposed to be.

If we are not assertive – not to be confused with aggressive – and are submissive, people will walk all over us. As Americans, we are taught that is bad. Anyone who has ever been bullied would agree there are times we must assertively refuse to be submissive.

But is that Christian behavior? Or are we rendering unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s?

If we look at the behavior of Jesus leading up to his Crucifixion, we should all be humbled. He refused to be assertive and insisted on being submissive. After all, hadn’t he taught his disciples to turn the other cheek?

Jesus taught his followers to forget about the Law of Moses when it came to an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. If he honestly believed everything he had proclaimed, he had no choice but to humble himself and allow his own death.

When Jesus set his life – and death – as an example, it sounds silly to quibble over words like assertive and submissive. When we put things in perspective, we should be truly humbled.

I stated earlier that it is difficult to be humble. This is especially true for Christians. Personally, from time to time I feel as though I may have achieved perfect humility. Then I realize that my very thoughts are far less than humble… and I have to start working on it all over again.

There’s a monastery in Conyers, Georgia where the monks have devised a method to ensure the humility of their brothers and themselves. Every couple of years, they change job assignments.

These men are totally self-sufficient and built all their structures themselves: from the main church to the guest-house, to the dormitory, to the bookstore, greenhouse, and bakery. When necessary, they hire a contractor to come and teach them how to do something. Then, they complete the project themselves.

To avoid any monk suffering from the sin of pride, they don’t allow anyone to do a job too well. As soon as everyone feels comfortable with his assigned duties, the duties are re-assigned.

Thus, a monk goes from baking the best bread around to maintaining the plumbing. The plumber is put in charge of the kitchen and must prepare meals for his fellow monks as well as any guests.

The electrician is put in charge of the book store and the carpenter is sent to the greenhouse. The man who had become a world renowned expert on Bonsai plants is put to work baking bread and the monk who had been taking care of the landscaping is sent to the guest-house to clean rooms and make beds.

I spent a weekend at the monastery during a changeover of duties. It is not a pretty sight. The place is total chaos for a few weeks while each monk learns his new job. Many hours are spent tracking down the former experts and picking brains. Eventually, all the monks learn their new jobs and days begin to run smoothly again.

To the credit of the monks, they all are diligent about learning their new trades. Eventually, they become experts at whatever it is they’ve been assigned to do. That’s when it’s time to shuffle the deck once more.

I often wonder if Mother Teresa was able to maintain her humility in the face of all the accolades she received. If she was able to accept the recognition and stay humble, she deserves to be elevated to sainthood.

Personally, I don’t think I’ll ever make it.


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