Thursday, February 2, 2012

Can humility become distasteful?

It’s hard to imagine that humility could become distasteful. Meek people are friendlier. They are unpretentious and accommodating; generally nice people. Yet humility can have a negative underside.

For instance, humility can sour into self-loathing. It is difficult to enjoy a dinner with someone wallowing in self-deprecation.  

But humility really becomes distasteful if it dissuades appreciative acknowledgement of others.  When humility is unable to compliment others for fear of inducing pride, it leaves a bad taste in your mouth.

My own experience with humility is varied. I am thankful for the repugnancy towards pride that has been distilled in me. At best, it keeps me grounded and realistic about who I am and who I am not. But it has also made it difficult to celebrate accomplishments. I have vivid memories of my father’s stern acknowledgments of my achievements.

“You have done a great job, but don’t let it go to your head,” he would say with furrowed brows. It made me feel as though I had done something bad – bit into a forbidden fruit.

As a community of faith, our discomfort with pride can produce a discomfort with success.  Accomplishments become suspect. When this happens, a community quietly and even sub-consciously pushes successful people aside. Achievements are hidden – pushed to the back of community engagement like expired salad dressing in the fridge.

I remember as a young adult when a Christian musical talent signed onto a secular label. Rather than acknowledging the achievement and celebrating the potential of having a positive influence on secular music, the Christian community abandoned the artist. Labelled as a selfish apostate, the artist was discarded and ignored.

Let’s be the community of faith that rekindles a proper understanding of humility. Humility is not opposed to achievement. It is opposed to thinking more highly of yourself than you ought. When a community of faith celebrates their people, who have accomplished much, a sense of indebtedness and responsibility is produced. Success is held more accountable by embrace than it is by rejection.

When we acknowledge God’s embrace of grace and mercy, and celebrate the good things that God has done with us – we are empowered to celebrate the good things that God is doing in others.