Tuesday, March 29, 2011


I was having a bit of a think about humility today. About time too I hear you say, and you'd probably be right.

I was once part of a team who devised and used a training game in which different qualities an ideal youth worker might need were printed out on cards and priced. It was a small part. I edited the rules. Participants were given a certain amount of money to equip themselves by purchasing qualities. The game was called Fruit.

If you want a taster, consider this list and ask yourself which three you might take if you could only have three:

Bible Knowledge
Communication Skills
Pastoral heart
Servant heart

If Godstuff has got its act together (a long shot but it may happen one day) then you will be able to purchase the game from their web site http://www.godstuff.org.uk/. It look as if this link takes you straight to the game but whether or not they have any available is anyone's guess. It's best learned by playing anyway.

During one session of playing the game with a group of leaders we heard someone shout out, quite loudly, 'Humility? What would I want that for?' And we all knew, in a moment. Did any of you choose it?

In the world's slowest journey through Luke's gospel our leadership team, after reading it for a year and a bit, have reached chapter 14. Jesus, in a piece of parallelism from chapter 13, once again heals on the Sabbath but then starts to question his company's humility, for they all take the best places at the meal table.

Being a healer puts you in quite a prominent position and makes it inevitable that people will watch you. Jesus' approach to humility is not to step back and allow others to lead but to take control, heal and speak about the significance of what he has done. Then he lectures the prominent Pharisee's guests on a true humility - take the lower places at table and allow others to move you higher if they deem you worthy. Throw dinner parties for those who won't invite you back.

Later in that meeting it was suggested by a colleague that I might consider tutoring a mission course. A guest from the diocesan evangelism department said that if I wanted to do that I should submit a pro-forma of my skills and experience.

Humility dilemma. I don't want to submit an application to do more work. I want others to notice areas where I might be useful and invite me to contribute. I think Jesus demonstrates that a true humility is found in being aware of your own areas of expertise and yet being willing to wash feet. Or perhaps in assuming that someone more important than you is bound to turn up yet not missing the opportunity to speak on a subject you know something about. I found myself thinking this:

I worked as a professional trainer for ten years. I have been the guest of this diocese as the main speaker at a training event on more than one occasion. I have run training the trainers sessions. I am possibly the most experienced trainer in the room. And you want me to submit my CV? Do you not know? Have you not seen?

And of course at this point I get quite Messianic and humility skulks out through the obviously imaginary cat-flap.

I have never wanted to be photographed with a celebrity or sports star unless the reason we were in the same picture was absolutely genuine and not forced. This is a totally arrogant position because it means what I want is to be the one people want to be photographed with. Down boy.

I want to be famous but not by doing reality TV shows or pushing myself forward but by being noticed humbly getting on with my day-to-day ministry alongside people and making a difference in their lives. I am a mess. I want to be a great author but not to self-promote. I know my book is for sale on the side-bar but you won't know how hard it is for me to do that.

To summarise. I am not humble in all circumstances. I am in some. In others I don't know what a humble person would do.



Mike Peatman said...

Good questions. This years Archbishop's Lent book explores humility and these dilemmas very well.

Anonymous said...

You are, in my opinion, an extremely gifted writer - I wonder sometimes if you realise how gifted. I'm unsure if you need 'humility' or 'discernment', on whether to do more work for the diocese. If your heart is in it - what is the problem with submitting your CV to someone who may or may not have previously experienced you at work. Please write more, much more ,including teaching for your local church, add more to your CV and be proud to justify yourself knowing the huge amount of grace that is behind any of us being good at anything. Sorry, sounds as if I'm preaching at you - really don't mean to.... Just I've a feeling you have an underused gift...

Caroline Too said...

Oh st, you hold a mirror up for me to look at...

petewood said...

I like some of the things Seth Godin has been saying about getting motivated and starting things. His main point is you're not going to get picked, you have to pick yourself.

I wonder what would have happened all those years ago if, when being picked to play football, and always being chosen last, even after the kids with special needs, what if I'd just said, before the picking began - 'I'm playing on this team'.

I don't know about humility but Plato said 'Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a harder battle'.

St said...

Helpful comments. And to the generous anonymous contributor 'Aw shucks.'