“If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves.”– Philippians 2:1-3
Last month I moved onto the campus of the prep school where my wife works. That means I am now immersed in the life of high school students. I talk to them over breakfast in the dining halls. I see them working over their computers in the library. I watch them moving purposefully from classes to athletic fields and back.
This is a demanding school. A lot of the graduates will go on to the Ivy League or other elite colleges. They understand concepts I couldn’t fathom in high school, all while being rather annoyingly well-rounded. They are extraordinary youth. And yet, with few exceptions, they are also humble.
Humility gets a bad rap. We think it’s the same thing as humiliation, or self-degradation. But that’s not true humility. True humility is not about putting yourself down, but rather about realizing that the people who surround you are no less special than you.
I sometimes hear that the emerging generations are products of a “participation trophy” culture. They believe that they have been ruined by a lifetime of being told they are unique and special. I don’t think that’s true. If that culture exists, it was here long before they were. Instead, I’ve been amazed by the way these students talk about others, and not themselves, quick to tell me about just how special someone else is at something.
Something amazing happens when we begin to recognize that we are surrounded by people who have been given great gifts. Something even more amazing happens when we realize that every single person has been given great gifts by God. Humility is not denying your gifts. Humility is having the ability to see the gifts that are in others, and celebrating them just as much as your own.
God, give me a humble heart, and surround me with others who have the same. Then, let us lift one another up. Amen.
Emily C. Heath is the Senior Pastor of the Congregational Church in Exeter, New Hampshire, and the author of Glorify: Reclaiming the Heart of Progressive Christianity.