In the October edition of my In Good Faith column, I write about the joys of dog ownership and the importance of humility.
On most days, at some point, I can be seen walking down the street carrying a bag of poop. Thiswould be a much stranger sight if I didn’t also have one or both of our dogs walking beside me. Yet I find that this small, simple act of dog ownership helps on the humility front. It’s hard to have an outsized view of yourself when you literally carry dog poop around town in a brightly colored bag on a daily basis.
As Americans, we’re generally not too big on humility. We’re more into keeping up appearances and keeping up with the Joneses. We’re taught to seize the day, that might makes right, that only the strong survive. Rather than lifting up humility as a virtue, we’re more inclined to equate humility with weakness.
And that’s too bad. Because if we all genuinely embraced humility, I’m pretty sure the world in which we live would be a much more enjoyable place these days.
Maintaining a healthy and realistic view of one’s own importance isn’t about low self-esteem or self-renunciation. Rather, it’s about lifting others up, leaving space for those beyond ourselves to function more fully in the world around us. It’s about listening to voices besides our own and opening ourselves up to differing viewpoints.
Perhaps not surprisingly, I believe our current political landscape could use a dose of humility. Our politicians could stand to dial back the self-aggrandizement, and people on all sides might recognize that they may, even occasionally, not have all the answers. The amplification of one’s own views on social media surely doesn’t help with the ensuing divisiveness.
From a faith perspective, without humility we tend to forget our place in the world. Our self-righteousness can take over and we slowly, but surely put ourselves on the same plane with God, rather than taking our place as humble servants of God. Which, in the religion business, is called sin.
Of course, even faith leaders are not immune to a lack of humility. Joel Osteen drives a Ferrari. There are clerics who revel in the opulence of their office, more concerned with status than service. Which doesn’t leave much room for humility, for giving away power and prestige, rather than stockpiling it. Nor does it speak to the one who humbled himself on a cross.
Embracing humility doesn’t mean spiritual groveling. We are indeed worthy to stand before God, and we should live with the sure confidence that we are truly and wholly loved by God. But setting ourselves over and above other members of God’s creation is neither spiritually sustainable nor how God intends for us to walk through this world. Which is easy to forget in this age of self-affirmation and self-reliance and self-indulgence and self-justification.
What is it that keeps you humble? It may be walking down Main Street carrying a bag of poop; it may be listening to others before sharing your opinion on Facebook; it may be acknowledging a mistake at work rather than blaming a co-worker.
I invite you to reflect upon ways that you might walk more humbly through this world of ours. Dogs, of course, are optional.