I am certain that I have discovered the most valuable quality in life, humility. For without it, you cannot truly love. It has taken me years to learn this truth and due to my sinful nature, I will need to be reminded of it regularly, perhaps even on a daily basis!
C.S. Lewis describes humility as not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less. The opposite of humility is pride. Pride is like a dam wall that stops love from flowing out of our hearts. It stops us from seeing past the wall to the needs of another. It confines us to our own thoughts and desires and how to best advance ourselves. Our focus becomes who is right (unquestioningly us), not what is right.
In reflection on many disagreements, I can see few situations where a response of love and humility (as opposed to pride) has not (or would not have, were it tried) won. For instance, it is difficult to respond in hostility when someone loves in the following ways during a conflict:
- admits they were wrong;
- looks to respect and love the other person;
- considers how they can best meet the other’s needs.
I know having studied law and worked in a law firm it is easy for me to fall into the trap of thinking that even if common sense prevails, my position is correct and I can craft words to support it, no matter the response of the other party. It is hard to let go of this line of thinking which can result in pride. If pride arises, even for a lawyer this can prevent you from getting your client the best outcome as it causes tunnel vision – a focus on you being right in one area, which prevents you from seeing other aspects of the problem. I struggle to keep this conditioned ‘it’s not what you argue, but how you argue it’ thought process which leads to pride, from arising in disagreements in relationships or my marriage.
I also find it SO hard to choose to walk in humility, especially if I feel that I am in the right and another has wronged ME! However, when I do choose the path of humility, I am always surprised at the way God uses it for a win. He uses it to strengthen or mend relationships, grow my love for others and of course my love for him – for it reminds me of the nature of my own sinful heart and how inadequate I am to come before him, without Jesus. It also reminds me that it should be no surprise that ‘things just work’ when I follow his ways. He created me, he knows the best way for me to live and he has communicated it in a ‘blue print to life’, the bible. He uses these challenges and good outcomes to grow my faith in his ways.
I am thankful God is a patient Father, not just one saying ‘Are you are idiot?! How much clearer can I make the answer to your problems? I’ve written it down in scripture and through Jesus I even succumb to your level, your dirty, unrighteous world and showed you how to act!’. He would be completely right to say that and snub me, but he doesn’t. He says “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” Mattthew 11:28. He says, “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you.” Psalm 32:8. I reply and plead, “don’t let me go God, guide me, my ways have proved not to work!”
Practical questions to test your heart’s motives during a conflict
- Is this to bolster my own pride in ‘sticking to my guns’ – or is their position right?
- Is their position really their primary concern? If not, how can I lovingly encourage them to address that concern? Will it mean admitting aspects of their position are correct so that they feel comfortable enough to let down their guard and get to the real issues?
- Is there a possibility I might be surprised by their response, if I gave a little more than I think they deserve? If they did respond positively, what flow on effects might this have?
- What will I lose (apart from my pride) if I take a chance on humility?
- Even if their response isn’t loving, is it better for my heart to take a small hit to my pride now so I can be free me from dwelling on it and avoid becoming bitter over it?
- How does God call me to act? Do I believe that he knows what is best for me?
If you have any more ‘testing’ questions to add to the above list or a story about how humility has mended or strengthened relationships or freed you from bitterness, please share in the comments below – lets encourage one another to choose love!