Lately I’ve noticed a disturbing trend. I can’t say I haven’t noticed this before, but some recent experiences cause me to think a little more deeply about a characteristic that is becoming increasingly endangered. Where is humility? Literally, I need to put out an APB for this precious and multifaceted treasure. Many would rather buy a David Yurman ring with dozens of encrusted gems to proudly display on a meticulously manicured hand than appear to have any aspect of humbleness. I mean a gorgeous ring is a perfect photo op for Facebook, Tumblr and Twitter, right? Don’t be offended. I love social media too, but while this instant sharing can add to our lives and help us connect with others, if we are not careful it can be a 24-hour celebration of self. Let’s look at the definition of humble:
1 : not proud or haughty : not arrogant or assertive
2 : reflecting, expressing, or offered in a spirit of deference or submission
3 a : ranking low in hierarchy or scale: insignificant, unpretentious
Humility is an attitude. It’s intangible, but you know when you encounter it. A person who is humble does not seek status, power, acclaim or praise. And what is interesting is some of the most famous people in the world were never looking for fame at all.
When I think of some of the most powerful people in history, many of the most memorable made an indelible mark on society. Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi or as many know him, Mahatma Gandhi, not only led the way for autonomy for his people but inspired many others to fight for independence. In pictures he usually wore an affable and peaceful smile. His non-violent stance, hunger strikes and protests created an atmosphere of action. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. greatly admired Ghandhi’s methods of obtaining civil rights. Dr. King’s observations of Ghandhi lead him to conclude, “As I delved deeper into the philosophy of Gandhi, my skepticism concerning the power of love gradually diminished, and I came to see for the first time that the Christian doctrine of love, operating through the Gandhian method of nonviolence, is one of the most potent weapons available to an oppressed people in their struggle for freedom.”
In 1910, an Albanian woman named Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu decided to live for the Lord and never looked back. She later decided to answer “a call within the call” after a trip to Calcutta. For the rest of her life she would be known as Mother Teresa. During her first year of missionary work she had to resort to begging on the street herself. She declared, “Our Lord wants me to be a free nun covered with the poverty of the cross. Today I learned a good lesson. The poverty of the poor must be so hard for them. While looking for a home I walked and walked till my arms and legs ached. I thought how much they must ache in body and soul, looking for a home, food and health. Then the comfort of Loreto [her former order of nuns] came to tempt me. ‘You have only to say the word and all that will be yours again,’ the Tempter kept on saying … Of free choice, my God, and out of love for you, I desire to remain and do whatever be your Holy will in my regard. I did not let a single tear come.” Her gentle spirit burned with passion for the forgotten ones, the rejected ones. If our hearts would be so yielded! At the end of her service to God, she was so respected and recognized she was #1 in Gallup’s poll of the Most Widely Admired People of the 20th Century. She was not self-serving and did not boast in herself–she boasted in her God.
And no matter what side you come down on Christianity, it is undeniable the effect Jesus Christ has on the world we live in today. Thousands of years before radio, TV or the Internet and His name is one of the most recognizable on the globe. The symbol of the cross represents humility, meekness, an obedience unto death for the good of all. This act of willing sacrifice is such a powerful act that many popular movies and books feature a character that dies to save the lives of others. No other act displays such an utter disrespect for one’s own comfort and personal welfare. Apostle Paul’s letter to the Philippians exquisitely captures the heart of humility: “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death — even death on a cross!” Phillipians 2:3-8 (NIV).
So now as we all carve our mark in the 21st century, I ponder what the nations will yield for the world to see. Will we long for days of old when ones with quiet courage shook the world? Will new, brave leaders be willing to die for a required and noble cause? Will I stand with these men and women? Will you? Or will we forget our gloried past and feed on our own selfish desires? I still believe humility exists and can thrive in a digital world. We just need to take a breath and back away from the noise from time to time. Remember simple pleasures. Rejoice in a sunset or a bouquet of flowers. Join a cause you are passionate about. Call loved ones and visit those that are in need of love. Take time to look beyond the face in the mirror.