|My Spiritual Life Ramblings|
Saturday, July 24, 2004
Interesting read from John Gagliardi that touched my heart.
Something that God spoke to me when I was young and full of pride.
HUMILITY—A DOOR TO GODLY WISDOM
I have written before on the topic of humility, but I find it remains personally an intriguing and challenging concept. The Bible repeatedly admonishes us to be humble, but how precisely do we go about being humble in everyday life? How does a Kingdom business professional “do” humility out there in the marketplace?
This thought was raised again in my mind recently when I received a book published by the Australian Institute of Management, entitled The 7 Heavenly Virtues of Leadership . Flicking somewhat idly through it, my eyes were suddenly riveted by a phrase that seemed to jump out from the page at me: “Humility is a door to wisdom. ”
I looked again, and sure enough as I read on, the writer, Dr. Strom, was quoting Scriptures about humility from the Book of Proverbs! Amazing! I have been a Fellow of the Australian Institute of Management for many years, and have read many of their publications, but this is the first time I have seen such an unambiguously biblical take on management education in any of their books. Hopefully, it is a harbinger of things to come!
According to the book's introduction to Dr. Strom, “The heart of his work is to deconstruct bureaucratic artifice and the mythologies of culture and change … and to teach that wisdom is the heart of leadership.” He has also written Reframing Paul: Conversations in Grace and Community.
As someone who has both studied and taught management in past years, I find this an extraordinarily refreshing approach to a discipline that has, in my humble opinion, become too bound up with self-serving obfuscation and pseudo-scientific mumbo-jumbo. Well done, Dr. Strom! A breath of fresh air!
Wisdom Above All
In his article on humility, Dr Strom points to the radical approach to leadership by the apostle Paul, saying he became “the architect of what is arguably the most radical reshaping of human relations in Western, if not human, history … Humility was not an idea to Paul … It was a commitment, a way of life thrust upon him by his identification with Jesus of Nazareth … “
He says humility is the heart of an enquiring mind, and a door to wisdom . The wise leader prizes the gaining of wisdom above all else, something laid down by “an ancient chief executive” (King Solomon in Prov. 4:7).
Dr. Strom points out that there is a paradox in what we say about humility: “To be humble is to recognize that we are both small and big.
Small in the faced of a big world offering a large life.
Big in the face of the petty fears and self-doubt that may rob us of the joy of life.
Small as those who have much to learn.
Big as those who can learn far more than we can imagine.
Small as a child helpless in his mother's arms.
Big as a child who brings a father to his knees.
If we are indeed fearfully and wonderfully made, then humility is our amen.”
Which brings us to what I thought was the most interesting aspect of Dr. Strom's article: Can humility be taught? Can we learn to be humble?
This is what he says: “Can humility be taught? By a program, no. By life, yes. More than programs, we need conversations that provoke us to:
Focus on character more than personality. Character, it has been said, is what we are in the dark—how we behave when we know no one is looking
Watch and emulate those whose characters impress us as much or more than their achievements
Find people who will tell us the truth—mentors who will challenge us to live humbly and nobly
Face our mistakes (Prov. 6:3)
Refuse to lay guilt trips on people
Lift up others
Take time to enjoy life and other people deeply
Mentor generously—the rising stars as well as those deemed less likely
Speak with intent (Prov. 15:4)
Nurture moral imaginations to sense the consequences of our decisions and actions
Challenge ourselves with three little words: “ On behalf of ” whom or what will this make a difference?
Avoid creating false dilemmas. We can be humble and confident; modest and sure of our gifts and talents. Ultimately, humility is not shaped by how we regard ourselves, but by how we regard others
Avoid becoming paralyzed by motives. Life and leadership is not as neat as our seven virtues. Humility comes wrapped in stories, self-perceptions and expectations. There are no pure motives—the test is openness to genuine conversation
Face anxiety. Leadership involves tough choices … this creates anxiety. Anxiety puts us on a knife-edge: to face it and grow, or runaway and regress
Refuse to protect ourselves with petty behavior
Do not always insist on our rights and entitlements
Give up the myth of control by giving up on formulas for leading people
Do not fish for compliments
Let go of ideals and stereotypes about leadership—there is no one pattern to greatness. “ Humility comes before honor” (Prov. 15:33)
In his article, Dr. Strom quotes from John Ralston Saul's book, On Equilibrium , where we see humility's role in what Saul calls the “six universal qualities”:
Humility exalts common sense—it challenges the tyranny of experts
Humility brings a human face to ethics—it brings abstraction back to earth
Humility fires imagination—it silences cynicism and take visions beyond us
Humility enlightens intuition—it deepens discernment
Humility is the straight edge of memory—it checks the distortions of self-interest
Humility makes reason reasonable—it teaches us to value clear thinking as nothing more or less than that.
Solomon, that wise king Dr. Strom refers to as an “ancient chief executive,” has a lot to say on the subject of humility. He says that the fear of the Lord will teach us wisdom, and that if we want to be honored, we must first be humble (Prov. 15: 33). He says the humble will be honored (Prov. 18:12), while humility and the fear of the Lord bring riches, honor and life
It is also a consistent theme in the New Testament—Jesus Himself teaches that the humble will be raised up and made great (Matt. 18:4; 23:12), while James and Peter tell us to be humble, because God opposes proud people, but gives grace to the humble (James 4:6; 1 Pet. 5:5).
Humility, according to Dr Strom, is a doorway to wisdom , and wisdom is a key attribute for Christian business and professional people. Again, according to the “ancient CEO” in Proverbs 3 and 8, wisdom will bring us:
the good health necessary to do our work well
a good reputation
all the financial resources we need
peace so we can plan properly
joy so be can be a light shining in a dark world
divine guidance in decision-making
a long life so we can do all the things God has called us to do.
Humility is the doorway to the God kind of success—success built on wisdom and integrity, and on obedience to the divine call on our lives to produce “fruit that will last” (John 15:16).
“Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time: casting all your care upon Him, for He careth for you” (1 Pet. 5:6 and 7).