If practiced, Jeremy Taylor’s third rule for living humbly will help one avoid becoming a hypocrite. Taylor’s (1613-1667) third rule in the language of that day: “Whatsoever evil thou sayest of thyself, be content that others should think to be true.” He explained a bit further by saying “But he that calls himself intemperate, foolish, lustful, and is angry when his neighbours call him so, is both a false and a proud person.” My interpretation: A humble person will recognize their own failings and will not be angry with others when they also recognize the same frailties.
No one likes to have their flaws pointed out by others. Even when a friend or enemy is “spot on” in their assessment, it doesn’t make it any easier to hear that one hasn’t lived up to their own expectations or others’.
Mark Hayter, The Courier columnist, has written about the Parkers before. The Parkers were mutual friends of ours. Grandmother-aged Ruby Parker was among a group of younger wives as we spoke of how a woman can sense a mood shift in her husband. Ruby told us that when she saw Roger in a pensive mood, she made a practice of recalling the events of the day to see if she might have offended him through her words or actions. If she thought of an offense of hers, she simply asked Roger for forgiveness. If she couldn’t think of anything, she gently asked Roger why he was quiet. Sometimes, he was just tired. Whatever way he answered, because Ruby opened herself to hear how she might have failed, she kept dialogue open between husband and wife. I’ve always remembered Ruby’s example of humble living.
Sometimes, when a spouse or friend or even an enemy points out a flaw, we can show we accept their honest critique by using humor. Humor extends good nature to the one courageous enough to talk to us about our failings. A Yogi Berra story illustrate this: When driving to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, Pennsylvania, with his wife Carmen and his three sons, Larry, Tim, and Dale, Yogi got lost. His wife Carmen, in Yogi’s words, “was giving me a hard time.”
Yogi finally said, “We’re lost, but we’re making good time.” Even though humor softens tense moments in relationships, one can assure the person pointing out the fault that the topic will get serious consideration.
As part of my study on humility, I’m reading Andrew Murray’s “Humility, The Beauty of Holiness.” Murray (1828-1917, with 240 books to his credit), wrote, “I feel deeply that we have very little conception of what the Church suffers from the lack of this divine humility – the nothingness that makes room for God to prove His power.” I suspect that even after a year of focusing on humility in this column we will have only nibbled at the corners of humility.
This next suggestion is sort of like the person who said, “Don’t pray for patience.” They found that when they asked God for it, a hardship came along as the teacher. I want to encourage you to watch for criticism that comes your way this week, and instead of bristling like a cat, let those spine hairs down, and simply say, “I’ll seriously consider what you’ve advised.” In sincerity, you can even be more generous and say, “Thank you.” When you leave their presence, do just what you said. Consider the advice. Don’t fume. Don’t tell others about the corrective conversation.
I hope we all learn lessons this week, but you know what that means – that we’ll all receive correction. So, if your neighbor, as Jeremy Taylor said, calls you a fool, your humorous “response” could be, “Been there. Done that.”
To keep us uplifted on this journey, consider Elizabeth Harrell’s six benefits of seeking humility, mentioned in an article at Lifescript.com and shortened here for you: (1) Humble people tend to respond rather than “react” to challenging situations. (2) When we humbly serve others, we reduce the focus on our own problems. (3) People feel comfortable around a humble person. (4) Practicing humility opens the door to wisdom because humble people listen more than they speak. (5) People trust you when they recognize your genuine interest in them, and that your goal is not to promote self. (6) Humble leadership creates loyalty when others see you rejoice at their successes.
Hunger for Humility (7): “Go out into the world uncorrupted, a breath of fresh air in this squalid and polluted society. Provide people with a glimpse of good living and of the living God” (Philippians 2:15 MSG).
Accessed February 16, 2012