I recently attended the silver jubilee of ordination to bishop of a friend of mine. Although he and I have worked together a fair bit over the last five or six years but I have never had occasion to hear him preach. It was a very good sermon – weaving together the message from the readings he had chosen and a reflection on his life’s journey. As he was speaking I was struck forcibly by the unusual tone for such a celebration.
True humility is being able to hold my giftedness and my woundedness. It is allowing God to use me as I am. It is the knowledge that my efforts whilst necessary are insufficient in themselves. Sometimes I will make a truly inspired contribution and sometimes I will crash and burn. I can be proud of myself for being willing to show up and make the contribution that I am able to, but oftentimes success or failure are beyond my control.
I guess what I am trying to say is that it seems to me that it is important to take credit for what is truly my effort, but not to claim the wild successes as being due my brilliance, and not lamenting the unforeseen failures as though I was to blame. Clearly there is need for discernment and probably impartial feedback in all of this. The goal is real self-knowledge.
Most of us seem to err on one side or the other. Either we tend to assume credit for achievements which were not solely ours and successes which were in excess of expectation. Or we tend to beat ourselves up for failing to adequately foresee problems. We need to find the middle road, where we know our own real value – its usually a bit a mixed bag.
I pray for the grace of humility.