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Friday, December 16, 2011

Pride and Humility

As someone who did not grow up Mennonite, I find certain traditional Mennonite personality traits don't make sense to me.  Pride is associated with being different, or sticking out in some way, and humility is associated with having, or pretending to have, a woeful opinion of oneself.

Being different, sticking out, or even standing out, does not mean a person is better or worse than anyone else, only different.  In fact the apostle Paul is clear that we are different, we all have different gifts.  Equality is not manifested in sameness, but in difference, in that each different gift is important and vital, and everyone is gifted.  Pride comes not in being different or sticking out, nor does it come in overestimating one's gifts since God has given them, they must be valuable indeed.  Pride comes in believing one's gifts are better than others, and in failing to respect the treasure found in others' gifts.  As a pastor, I am upset when I hear people downplay or denigrate their gifts.  It is not themselves they diminish, but the giver of the gifts, and the community which receives them.

This sort of humility, this having a woeful opinion of oneself is not humility, but disrespect for God, for self, and for community.  True humility recognizes the goodness of the gift with gratitude to the giver, not taking credit for it, but acknowledging that Christ's strength is made known in weakness.  True humility recognizes that we are not all equally woeful, but equally blessed with God's gifts.


Ann Hostetler said...

Phil, I really appreciated this blog post. There's a strong pressure in the Mennonite community not to stand out, except perhaps as a humble supporter of the community.We are afraid to draw attention to the self--for any variety of reasons. I agree with you that God has given each of us unique gifts, and that often a sense of humility--or an obligation to appear humble--keeps us from singing that Divine song with our human instruments. Thank you for your affirmation for members of CMC to acknowledge and use their gifts--including, perhaps, gifts that haven't had much of a place in church traditions. My son David just finished reading Shirley Jackson's short story "The Lottery" for his 9th grade English class. In reviewing that story with him, I was struck by how group conformity and the unexamined desire to continue traditions leads to dire results for the people of the town and their relations with each other. It made me feel, again, the urgency for groups to create space for recognizing and honoring the diversity of gifts and persons among their members in order to stay true to the fullest expression of the spirit of Christ. Thanks for keeping this blog. I'm enjoying it very much.