Matthew 23:12 For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.
I once heard a person tell another, “There is a God, and it’s not you!” Haven’t you felt like telling that to someone who has been acting outrageously arrogant or demanding?
Sometimes, we need to take a good look at ourselves and see if we deserve that admonition. “There is only one Presence and one Power in the Universe…and it is not me.” This is the secret to humility that Jesus was sharing.
Many of us believe we are in some position of power – whether as a parent, pet owner, homeowner, boss, or CEO of a company. If we believe we have personal power over anything at all, we are mistaken. There is only God, that one Presence and one Power; all else is confirmation of that Power in us.
Wind generators continue to receive interest as sources for electricity. When we see these massive structures turning from a distance, they seem to have a power of their own. But in truth they are simply conduits for the flow of the wind that drives them. Remove the wind, and these generators are useless scraps of metal. Add the power of the wind and these magnificent machines can generate power for thousands of homes. If there is some sort of resistance in the propellers of the generator, a defect in the turbine for instance, there is a loss of power. The more freely the wind generator props turn the more power is created.
Like wind generators, or solar panels, we are conduits for the Power of God flowing through us; powerless when we separate ourselves from Spirit, yet capable of magnificence when connected to our Source.
A common human quality causing resistance to our flow of Spirit is pride and selfishness. Conversely, humility is a complete lack of false pride. The humbler we can become - the least resistant we can be to God moving through us - the more powerful we become. This power reveals itself as love, joy, service, kindness, willingness, charity, peace, wisdom and all the other highly attractive qualities we aspire to express. I’ve been taught that it is always better for people to discover our good qualities without us having to tell them. It is far more effective to let the winds of God turn our propellers than to fuel them with our own hot air.
Scientific research shows that the humble leader creates a healthier and more effective culture within their organizations, whether as a CEO, a government official, a coach, or parent. Data indicates that humility is not only associated with higher levels of leadership competence, but also lower levels of counterproductive work behaviors and deviant, unethical, and corrupt acts within the organization. If our desire is to minimize the risks of toxic and destructive leadership, then we should look to selecting leaders based upon their humility.
It is a myth of civilization that the most aggressive and strongest people always win the day and make the greatest leaders. History is filled with examples of such people: Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, Ivan the Terrible, Napoleon, Stalin…. Yet despite all their battles, what did they win and what did they keep? “What shall it profit a man to gain the whole world, and lose his soul?” Mark 8:36
We can be seduced by charisma, drive, confidence, and arrogance because most of us do not see those qualities in ourselves. Today, many of us are fighting and struggling to get ahead, or just to stay even. We seem steeped in a mindset of lack, doubt, and timidity, and this negativity spills over into all areas of our lives. So, when someone shows confidence and assertiveness, they become a focus.
Although we are taught to “let our light shine,” we must beware of those whose lights are fueled by ego and not Spirit. We can be blinded by charisma. There are times when we lean toward people who entertain us, whether they have any substance or not. We can become enchanted by their magnetic personalities, and we equate that with leadership skills.
Leadership and entertainment are not the same skill set, and we need to look past the show to what is within the showman. There must be a balance between ‘glow and go.’ Wonderful leadership skills combined with some personality is desirable. Jesus demonstrated this. He had thousands of people following him and still had enough personality to hang out at wedding, drink some wine I presume, and enjoy his friends and life.
Another reason we are seduced by confidence, arrogance, and charisma is because we interpret arrogance and confidence as strength and competence. We cannot effectively choose leaders if we base our decisions on how good they think they are. Some of us think so little of ourselves that we are drawn to the large ego, someone who thinks they know what is best for us, confidently directing us, and even lying to us.
I worked for a small company that hired a new CEO. After coming to know him, I considered him an unethical person. He did not know my background with the company owner and top management. We had a conversation where he simply lied to me about various aspects of the business, confidently looking me in the eyes, trying to control my thinking and guide me to his side. Fortunately, I was not pliable or gullible. I did not disclose my actual thoughts, but smiled, nodded my head, and soon after found my immediate boss and another employee found another company to work for.
Sadly, another reason why we are attracted to charisma and arrogance is because we are still growing through the paternal nature of society, where men run everything. Not that all men fall into this category, but that mindset considers humility to be a female characteristic, and therefore it is a weakness.
“I am a man: I never apologize, admit I am wrong, or ask for forgiveness. I am not humble. Why should I be? I’m not weak; I’m a man.” Now this is a gross caricature of the worst of male leadership, but we all seen men like this. Even arrogant men will describe themselves as humble if it suits their needs. A humble person would not boast about being humble; it is too arrogant. Someday we will learn what Jesus taught: humility is strength, not weakness.
Jesus said in Mark 9:3, “If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all.” When I have done this over the years, I have felt good about myself. I felt in harmony with Creation, and in a good place in my heart and mind. I could feel the flow of Spirit through me.
In John 13:14-15, Jesus washes the feet of his disciples and says: “And since I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash each other’s feet. 15 I have given you an example to follow. Do as I have done to you.” To serve others and put them first, sometimes we must set the example and blaze the trail; at other times we merely point in the direction and then get out of the way. By getting ourselves out of the way, abandoning the ego and letting God express, it becomes clear that leading or following is not about us, it is about serving others. Either leading or following is serving.
Each of us has a unique set of God-imprints: we have exclusive talents, strengths, and abilities. Some of us are great smilers – we attract people and support them with our loving, kind, and giving personalities. Some are nerds and brainiacs and help through our ideas and minds. Others have a talent for counseling, interior design, the arts, or we are good readers or good listeners. For some of us our strength is our willing natures - to support, to give, to pray, to do for others.
When we are humble, or “meek in spirit,” as the Bible calls it, God expresses naturally through our strength set. Jesus would not take credit for his accomplishments: “It is the Father, living in me, who is doing His work.” When we allow God full reign of our lives, we exhibit behaviors that we thought were lost, hidden, and undeveloped. We live at our fullest potential, and at our most joyful, only when we get our small selves out of the way and let God move through us unimpeded.
There is power in humility. When we exalt ourselves, putting ourselves before others and holding dear to our human power and natures, we will be humbled. It is my prayer that we humble ourselves – that is, to let the indwelling Christ move through us freely – so that we are raised through the power of Spirit to where we and all those around us are exalted. Let us humbly give God the credit; give God the glory.