Growing up as a preacher’s kid has some unique challenges. Yes, there are plenty of benefits, but there are definitely challenges. (I’ll get to a list of them in another post.) One challenge was the message I took away regarding humility. I’m not here to dispute the importance of humility. I have no special place in my heart for the arrogant, although I believe that, excluding an official diagnosis of narcissism, many people who exhibit arrogant behavior do so to disguise feelings of inferiority. I do see humility as a virtue. However, hiding my talents because I’m afraid I will appear prideful is no better.
The problem with humility is when it becomes the practice of belittling myself and my abilities. I completely understand the “pride comes before a fall” proverb (Proverbs 16:18), but the problem with pride comes in the way it is presented; the attitude of “I’m better than you,” if you will. Putting myself down or keeping my abilities to myself helps no one. My mother is a very beautiful, very talented, very smart woman, but she continually talked about humility to me as a young lady. I know her purpose was to keep me from being consumed by the “I’m all that, and a bag of chips” attitude. Unfortunately, hearing her say negative things about herself all my life made me believe that I must be no better. I heard, “I wasn’t as smart as your dad,” or “I wasn’t a great student.” Anytime someone gave her a compliment, particularly on her talented art work, she either disputed their words or deferred the honor to someone else. That was the message I took about humility. That is the humility I believed I was supposed to model.
After I finished my baccalaureate degree (29 years after I first started it, but who’s counting?), I was trying to find a position in the field of human service. I interviewed more times than I can count and got as many no-call-back or the we-hired-someone-with-more-experience letters, all while beginning graduate school and hoping that getting in the field would help with the internship hours I would need. (How do you get two years of experience when no one will give you a chance?) Discouragement was getting to me when a friend asked where my diploma was located. When my answer included trying to describe the faux-leather-look folder it came in, buried under a pile of paperwork, he shook his head and recommended I frame and display it. Within two weeks, I picked out a frame and mat at the local craft store and displayed it on the wall. That single act of accepting and acknowledging an accomplishment has been a catalyst for finding the courage to do more. To be more. I did a lot of work to get where I am. I’m pretty proud of that effort. I didn’t do it alone. I had God and many encouraging people who helped. Some of those people told me they had no doubt that I could accomplish what I did. How is it I didn’t know?
One of the first activities I have clients do in my groups is to begin an accomplishment list. They look up with unbelief, waiting for me to explain. They’re in jail. They’ve been repeatedly reminded of the negative choices they have made in life. What on earth could they list? Graduated high school? Completed a GED certification? Many look lost, saying they have nothing to list. I try to prompt with suggesting grade school honor roll or any sports acknowledgements. It doesn’t have to be huge. It just has to be something that reminds that you have something to offer the world. Because everyone does. There’s a purpose for everyone. Hiding it in the name of humility doesn’t help you or anyone else. Besides, if you hide it, you could just lose it. And yours is needed as much as mine.