Nov 28, 2001

Humiliation or Humility?

I was half-way through facilitating an intensive 34-week Bible study class. One day, I received a phone call from one of the men in the class. Immediately following my "hello," he proceeded to tell me everything I had done wrong as a facilitator. “You are arrogant and incompetent. You think you know everything, when in reality you know very little. I can't imagine why the church allows you to teach this class, or why you are even allowed to remain on the staff! I will not be back to your class!" He continued for several minutes. Then, without giving me an opportunity to respond, he hung up the phone.

I sat in stunned silence. I felt devastated, wounded, and shaken. I was caught completely off guard! Until his call, I felt the class was going well. The members were committed in their work and attendance. They had been studying and sharing on a deep level. We were experiencing transformation personally and as a group. I could not imagine what had prompted the angry monologue on the phone.

I went home that day, unable to shake the feelings of humiliation and failure. I tried rationalizing the situation based on my perception of the man's personality. He was, after all, critical of many things in the church. He was a "recovering" alcoholic. He had been married and divorced a number of times, and was even now estranged from most of his family. Therefore, maybe I didn't have to put much stock in his criticism!

But the phone call continued to nag at me. I had always been overly sensitive to criticism. I found myself asking, "How will I deal with this? What if there is truth in what he is saying? Am I supposed to learn something here?"

As I began to ponder and pray, I engaged in a conversation with God. "OK, God, I now know what humiliation is. But it sounds like humility is what I really need. So how do I go about getting this humility thing?" I can still remember where I was standing when God's answer came, crystal clear, into my mind. "Do not seek after humility, for it will forever elude you. Instead, seek my face. Only then can you find humility, and what's more, you won't even be aware of it. But others will be." Humility is one of those funny things. Once you think you have it, you can be assured that you don't! True humility only comes as we seek the face of God, and seek to have his mind, heart, and motives in all we do.

One definition of humiliation is "to lower the pride of." Humility, on the other hand, is defined as "humbleness of mind." We can move from the humiliation of having our pride lowered to humility when we recognize our shortcomings and are willing to face our situation again with pure motives. Our relationships at work and at home will benefit when we are truly humble as Christ was humble.

Questions for discussion:

Recall a time when you were hurt by another’s criticism. Were you willing to ask yourself if there was any truth in the criticism? What changes might need to be made in your life if you were to be humble as Christ was humble?

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