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4 Stupid Substitutes for Humility

humblebragWhen Ben Franklin turned 20, he was determined to become virtuous. He put together a list of 12 virtues (frugality, sincerity, justice, etc.), and worked out a system of regularly focusing on one virtue a week while tracking his progress as he went.

He showed his finished list of values to a minister who pointed out that Franklin was missing humility—the queen of all virtues. Ben added it to the list bringing the total to 13.

After spending many months working on the virtues, Franklin’s friend asked how he was doing with humility. Franklin responded, “I can’t boast of much success in acquiring the reality of this virtue, but I had a good deal with regard to the appearance of it.”

If you’re acting humble, you’re not

Virtues are a lot like garments; you can put them on on without owning them. It’s tricky because we don’t just fool the people around us by playing dress up—we fool ourselves.

Humility’s much easier to manufacture than it is to internalize, and as long as we’re more focused on humility’s appearance, we’ll never experience its transformation.

So what’s humility?

Scripture’s packed with references to humility (something God honors), and most of the time it’s used as an antonym for pride (something God despises).

The classic C. S. Lewis quote from Mere Christianity is a helpful place to start:

“True humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less.”

Humility’s simplicity is what makes it so damned difficult. It’s simply thinking about, promoting the interests of, and celebrating others more than yourself.

Instead of focusing on others, we tend to promote, celebrate, and focus on ourselves with a little self-depreciating twist to give the appearance that we really don’t take ourselves that seriously.

4 things that aren’t humility

1. The humble brag

I use to work with this guy who’d say things like, “My wife’s always telling me that people think I’m weird and socially awkward because I use professor-like vocabulary words instead of talking like a normal person.”

Let me translate that for you: “Folks think I’m weird, BECAUSE I’M SO DAMN SMART!”

A humble brag is the delightful technique of saying something awesome about yourself, but washing it down with a chaser of faux-criticism or depreciation.

Only one person in a group can never seem to recognize a humble brag, and that’s the person who’s using it. They’re too busy trying to force feed you a spoonful of their awesomeness.

2. Most uses of the word “humbled”

When I had my first viral blog post, I was a bit of a jackass. It was such a big surprise and I didn’t know how to talk about it in a way that didn’t seem awful. So instead of just talking about it, I would post screen shots and stats and say ridiculous things like, “I’m so humbled that so many people are reading my blog today.”

I wasn’t so humbled about it—that was complete nonsense. I was excited. And you know what? That’s okay. What’s not okay is putting on some false sense of humility in order to draw attention to myself.

Now whenever I hear someone tell me how humbled they are, I recognize it for the B.S. it is. (Also, I can’t read “I’m so humbled” without hearing it in Jeremy Iron’s Scar voice.) Just tell me about the awesome thing you’re experiencing so I can celebrate with you.

3. Not taking a compliment

Newsflash: Humble people can take a compliment.

It’s funny to see someone spend an hour doing their hair and picking out an outfit to see them respond to a compliment on their appearance with, “Oh, stop. I look hideous.”

One’s inability to take a compliment (even if they’re sincere) is more about pride than it’s about humility.

Humble people have strengths, positive qualities, and nice outfits. It’s okay. Say thank you and move on.

4. Giving the glory to the Lord

Sometimes when you compliment a Christian on a job well done they’ll give you this kind of response, “Oh, that was just the Lord working through me” or “All the glory goes to the Lord.”

This is the Christian mash-up of not taking a compliment and holy humble bragging. It’s the worst kind of religiosity because it passes off the compliment while doubling down on self-righteousness.

By acknowledging  your gifts, you glorify the Lord. Humility doesn’t parade around in the skinny jeans of false piety.

Truly humble people are amazing to be around. Want to be like them? Start by looking for ways to celebrate the awesomeness of others and stop looking for a way to promote your own.

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The Cross Isn’t a Brand—It’s a Mission Statement

duckdynastyConstantine was certain that God had come to him in a dream. The first “Christian” roman empire had looked up at the sun and witnessed a cross-like apparition along with the words, “ἐν τούτῳ νίκα” (In this, conquer).

Unsure of the meaning of this vision, Constantine went to sleep a couple nights later to be met by Christ who explained to him that he must use the sign of the cross against his enemies.

History tells us that Constantine marched into the Battle of the Milvian Bridge as a conqueror under the banner of the cross. Because obviously, when a warrior people hear they should use something against their enemies—it must be to vanquish them. Continue reading

Ask Jayson: Finding the Good in Terrible People

typekeysDear Jayson,

I need some insight and help regarding Philippians 4:8:

“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”

Can you describe the meaning of each word . . . ie . . . true, honorable, just . . . and how to daily put this verse to work.

This passage truly messes me up. What if someone has done many abusive things to you, or grossly lied about you, or hurt someone you love? It’s true they are a bad person. Its true they are toxic. Yet . . . what else. Noble? Praise worthy? Not sure how to correctly put this verse to work. Seeking because I want its promise.

Peace,
Perplexed Continue reading

Overcoming the Seven Deadly Sins: Gluttony

Pie_eating_contest_Taking gluttony seriously is more than simply wringing our hands about the Western obesity epidemic.

Although the idea of gluttony is often tied to food, it’s much, much bigger. Simply put, gluttony is the act of taking something acceptable, useful, or even necessary and indulging in it in an unhealthy manner.

With this in mind, gluttony includes, but is not limited to, things like: Continue reading

4 Ways to Ruin a Perfectly Good Joke on Social Media

DislikeIf social media’s taught me anything, it’s that many well-meaning people have a sort of super power when it comes to ruining jokes.

When I’m not filling the internet with writings about spirituality and music, I’m telling jokes on Facebook and Twitter. After having thousands of great jokes destroyed within a couple comments, I’ve learned a few things I’d love to pass on to you.

Here are 4 ways to ruin someone else’s perfectly good joke on social media. Continue reading

Ask Jayson: How Do I Share My Trials in a Healthy Way?

underwoodDear Jayson,

My husband was recently diagnosed with cancer and we’re going through a lot right now. Suddenly, a question as simple as, “how are you” is an enormous challenge. Most ask how we’re doing with concern and sincerity but socially it’s awkward to know just how much they want—and how much I’ll feel like sharing. Any advice?

Overwhelmed Continue reading

Overcoming the Seven Deadly Sins: Envy

golum1Samuel Beckett, the famed Irish novelist and author of Waiting for Godot, married his long-time companion Suzanne in 1961. As his fame continued to grow, she was consumed with jealousy and their marriage weakened.

One day in 1969 she answered their ringing phone, spoke to the person on the other end, and hung up. Turning a pallid face to her husband, she mumbled, “Quel catastrophe. . .” (What a catastraphe) She’d just been told that the Swedish Academy had awarded Samuel the Nobel Prize for literature.

“Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.”—Romans 12:15

Continue reading

Get off the Assembly Line and into the Wilderness

freedomsculpturegIt’s a challenge of Christian spirituality to desire the intangible over the physical. Longing for an invisible Christ is hard to even wrap our minds around, especially when we compare it to more obvious concerns. This is even more difficult in our post-enlightenment culture that is suspect of anything that’s not concrete.

Rather than learning to embrace the mysteries of Christian spirituality, we resort to a faith that’s either mimicked or prescribed. To copy someone else’s behavior or submit to their direction, for Christ’s sake, has some sense of observable reality to it. Continue reading

Ask Jayson: Dealing with Judgmental Christian Parents

underwoodDear Jayson,

How do I get my extreme Christian parents to see that their views of the world are antiquated and no longer functional? They’re super judgmental and difficult to be around at times. I love my parents. I just want to see them love the world and people around them more. Background: I’m not Christian so they don’t value my opinion a lot of times.

Thank you,
Frustrated Continue reading

5 Steps for Embracing Real Christian Spirituality

mlkThe old cliché says that, “Christianity is not a religion but a relationship.” And while there are aspects of this saying I’d quibble with, there is more than a morsel of truth here. The struggle is that we’re all learning what it means to live out this relationship in a concrete and natural way . . .

When it comes to spirituality, we’re all absolute beginners. Those of us who live within the context of post-enlightenment Christianity struggle with intangibles. We’re suspect of anything that smacks of supernaturalism, and so we fill our minds with information with the hope that this alone will transform our inner lives. Continue reading

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