Tuesday, March 19, 2013
There is just something about people who are humble. You can't ignore it, and you can't put your finger on it. Everything they are doing seems to be genuine and effort less. You could say that they make being humble look so easy. Sadly this quality is so rare that it catches you off guard when you are exposed to such true humility.
True humility is one of the most underrated and necessary character that a leader should strive to master. I'm not sure why but I have yet to find anyone write a book on how to develop humility as a leader. I'm sure there must be someone out there that has touched on the subject, but I've not found one yet. Most of the time I find lessons from biographies of famous authors, but they are brief and far between.
Last week, I saw such a vivid example of humbleness from a very unexpected source. For a few days last week the eyes of the worlds media turned on a group of men locked in a chapel in one of the world most famous chapels, cameras trained steadily on a chimney that would herald the election of their new leader, Someone chosen from amongst a myriad of peers who would lead their church for the foreseeable future. When they presented the man they chose as pope, I could not help but notice that there was something... different, about him. Something I'd seen far too few times in all my years as a Christ follower. This man radiated humility!
Lessons from a Pope?
As more information about this man was revealed by the many news teams stationed at the vatican, there was an over arching trait that every person who had ever met this man would highlight as they were interviewed: He was humble. They noted that the way he lived as a cardinal was different than that of the others, he lived simply, took the bus rather than use a vehicle and driver that came along with his title. He spent time in the slums, amongst the very poor, he ate with them, cooked his own meals, and he used his position to love as many people as he could.
At this presentation Pope Francis chose to wear the simplest of robes, rather than dress in the fancy drapery available to him. Even after receiving the highest of positions in the catholic church, he chose to stay humble. Even went as far as picking up his own luggage and pay for the lodgings he had used before he became pope. The people of the media found it amazing how a man known for being humble refused so many of the benefits that came with the power he was chosen to wield. My favourite part of this news coverage was the look of confusion and surprise in the faces of several newscasters when they reported that he had thanked each member of the staff where he stayed and had taken a simple vehicle there. His actions radiated humility and they noticed! one head line read "Pope Francis shows Radical humility amidst vatican pomp." (You can read it here) Radical humility, if only we all had that.
Watching the media circus eat up any action or word this new pope said or did, I had a thought. There is a lesson to be learned here! I think that Radical Humility is not something you do it is something you are. Can a person be so humble that people think his actions to be radical? can something as passive as humility capture the hearts of a people in darkness? Has humility become so foreign to us that it shocks us when we see it in action? Can Humility truly be radical?
Its all glitter and noise...
This world is accustomed to big shows. It loves the next big thing, all the flash and glitter that screams: "I am awesome! Gaze upon my magnificence!!" you don't believe me? take a look at the magazine racks next time you are buying groceries. I dare you to find 3 covers of magazines that don't peddle fame, flash, riches, scandals or gossip. They're all about how you can make yourself better, more attractive, successful. Its all about the you. Even if you find one about someone famous making a difference with a charity, there's always some hidden benefit to that individual. They do it because it makes them feel like they are contributing. Its all about the you/me.
I think that the problem we have with humility is that we think that highlighting it makes it less humble. In fact, I believe most of us use humility as a way to boost our own pride. However, Radical Humility has nothing to do with us as individuals. True humility is found in filling the needs of others when no one is watching. Its sitting in the dirt with a poor family who has invited you for lunch, its forged in visiting an enemy who is sick, its found in leaving the church/youth room cleaner than when you got there so that the janitor does not have to clean up your mess, Its found in helping the sound techs clean up after the service even if it wasn't a youth service, its found in listening to a person pour out their heart to you after you've preached 3 sermons and all you want to do is go home and take a nap, it is found in offering a ride to a fellow church goer who is waiting for the bus on a rainy or snowy day, radical humility is found in having the guts to invite a person you've never met for lunch after church just to make them feel welcomed, it is found in stepping in when volunteers are needed even though you're working 40 hours that week and it means giving up a weekend, it is found in helping that new immigrant family learn the ins and outs of the culture so that they will be able to succeed, It is found in showing up for a prayer meeting, even if you're the only one there. True humility is not a label that you can attach on your self, but rather it is one bestowed on you by others, and one you cannot see.
Humility is not found once you are placed in a position of leadership! If you think having a higher title will make you more humble, you're wrong. It won't. If we don't learn humility when we are part of the masses, and no one is watching, then we will not attain it when we are at the apex leading the charge. Humility is not the way to fast forward a career nor can it be used to draw attention to our virtues. In fact, when we exercise true, radical humility we may not even realize we are doing it. It becomes such a natural, effortless part of who we are that it catches us by surprise when other people admire it. You just do what you do, because it pleases the Lord. Nothing more, nothing less. That's True humility.
Watching the Pope, break several customs to ensure that he stays humble is astounding! Yet, I do not get a sense that it is all an act. It looks so effortless, so natural the way he carries himself, like all these things that seem important and fancy are just trappings and inconvenience. He denied himself things that are his by right just to ensure that his humility is not compromised. This example has shown me that people who exercise true humility do so as part of who they are and not as something they do as an add-on to garner favour. It is truly a beautiful sight to behold! one can only imagine what it must look like through the eyes of God. Perhaps, it looks as effortless and graceful as a ballet, or as smooth and easy like the hands of a skilled musician on their instrument. Simple and beautiful. Effortless.
Let me conclude with a question I've been asking myself since I saw the reports on the new Pope: Am I seeking after humility simply so I will get recognized, or am I exercising it because it pleases God? I'm not sure how to answer this question, all I do know is that I want to be so humble that people outside of christian circles will be directed to God without me even knowing; I want a Radical Humility to radiate out or my life, do you?