Tag Archives: forgiveness

The Hinge of Humility: Opening Doors to Wisdom

In our contentious world, persons and parties are competing for attention, which often leads to dueling over which individual or group can be the most outrageous in their assertions. Accusations are followed by belated retractions and oral and written communication is littered with terms like, “alleged” and “some people are saying” and “unnamed sources assert.” One post is picked up by many and soon millions are arguing over dubious data.

What is sorely lacking in most public discourse is the virtue of humility. Humility is not the absence of confidence or fear of others. Humility is a disposition of openness and a willingness to be corrected and refined in our thinking. Humility also looks for the good in others and waters the soil of principled peacemaking and proximate justice.

There are five dimensions of humility that will transform our personal lives and improve our public conversations. The first is humility before the Almighty. Even deeply religious people are prone to pride in their moral virtue or personal accomplishments, acting as if they are doing a favor for God, rather than realizing God’s unmerited favor in underneath any good brought to the world.

The second dimension is humility about ourselves. We are all beautiful and broken, bearing the divine image and ravaged by a fallen world, which includes both our own choices and unwanted traumas. Humility allows us to receive God’s embrace and accelerate our healing and maturity from the inside out. And this growth usually involves the care and love of others.

Third, we need humility for healthy relationships. We need to call for help when things are toxic. And we also need patience as others are learning life lessons. Married couples should aim for the good of their partners. Colleagues and friends can celebrate the success of others without envy. And humility is the foundation of forgiveness and reconciliation.

The fourth dimension is humility about our personal calling or purpose. We can walk with confidence and be well-focused without arrogance or pride. Our destiny in woven together with the good of others – we never succeed alone. Discovering and developing our gifts and skills serve God and others.

Finally, humility informs our daily life of work and engagement on the economy. Every day is an occasion to see our work – paid or unpaid, labor or leadership – as service to God and others. Humility will open doors for advancement as others see our disposition and discipline in deed and word.

Humility is cultivated over time and it leads to inner tranquility and healthier relationships. Above all, the Scriptures remind us that God honors the humble with his grace and presence (Isaiah 55, James 4 and I Peter 5).  That is enough.

Choosing a Divergent Path: Wisdom in a World Gone Mad

We are inundated with loud voices clamoring for emotional reactions. In contrast, followers of Jesus are invited to hear the voice of the Good Shepherd and choose loving obedience. Let’s take time to still our hearts, listen deeply, and love wisely.

We do not live in the best or worst of times…but in the most instantaneous information moment of history. Our conflicts are not new, but much more immediate and our responses are often unreflective. We can shun vulgarity. We can choose intercession for those who disagree. And we can recognize that power itself is an addiction affecting every part of the political spectrum. 

Forgiveness often sparks revival in persons and communities. Without pretending about our real pain or excusing transgression, what if we let go of the rap sheet that we keep against ourselves and others and truly forgive? And when we bless those who frustrate us most, we are liberated, and a new future opens to us.

An antidote for our epidemic and anger: In the spirit of St. Francis of Assisi, we can meet every insult with blessing, every denial of truth with love and truth, arrogance with humility, and intolerance with civil discourse. And let’s respond to emotionalism and incipient Orwellian controls with careful thought and affirmation of liberty rooted in virtue. Systemic issues of class, gender, and race must be exposed…and overcome with love, relationships, and wisdom. Protest is one step…and practical, sacrificial action for others moves our vision of shalom forward. This is more than being nice and it is not passive. Living in the opposite spirit of our age of insults and vulgarity is a courageous spiritual posture. 

Navigating Unfairness in Life and Work

A sense of justice is hard-wired into the human psyche. Without training, a three-year-old will say, “Unfair!” We are rightly outraged at abuse, prejudice, and violence. But what about the more daily, subtle ways unfairness comes into our lives?

A colleague and I sat down with a leader and shared some of our creative thinking for a new product. We were met with condescension and kindness and the meeting ended well. A year later, we discovered that our ideas had been rebranded, and met with public favor!

Our first responses were incredulity, anger, and resignation. It was maddening to see another get credit and our efforts be ignored. We both thought, “Self-denial is hard when he advances, and we are ignored.”

It is frustrating when others are celebrated, and we feel unheard and unseen. Our first reactions are not yet sins. The next moments determine whether we wallow in self-pity or cultivate godly character. When unfairness happens, our hidden religiosity comes to the surface.

Three insights help us endure these moments. First, remembering God’s mercy in our lives helps us extend grace when life is unfair (Rom. 12:9-21). Second, we ultimately work for One Master, who will reward more lavishly that human leaders (Col. 3:17-25). Finally, God uses these moments for our transformation (Rom. 8:28-39).

Life will be unfair. But we can turn our circumstances into character development and wisdom. We do not celebrate victimhood; however, we can refuse to wallow in commiseration and chose the high road of forgiveness.

November 26: Time for Tears

North American Christianity needs a baptism of tears.
Instead of polarized invective that tears up apart, we need the tears of divine empathy to unite our hearts. The God of the Bible weeps and laughs, grieves deeply and dances with joy (Jeremiah 8-9; Zeph. 3; Luke 10, 19). Imagine our conversations with God and each other if we experience a baptism of tears:

We will weep deeply as we confront the racism and shed joyful tears as forgiveness triumphs over retaliation. We will weep, hearing the cries of creation as humans despoil the earth and we will cry aloud with delight as gospel hope inspires ecological healing.

We weep in intercession for our neighbors lost without Christ and shed tears of joy as converts are baptized and prodigals discover Abba Almighty waiting for them.

We will weep when a sister or brother suffers and find our eyes moist when healing flows.

This baptism of tears purges hubris and hypocrisy from our hearts. Tears will inspire love for enemies as we realize their need of grace.

 

 

 

Fostering Positive Relationships

If we are at peace with God and ourselves, we have a great foundation for fostering healthy relationships. The principles here apply to every type of relationship, from family dynamics with our spouses and children to lifelong and new friendships, colleagues at work and all other social dynamics.

Before enumerating positive insights, there are three boundaries that will help ensure that sacrificial love does not become self-destructive.

  • One: Serving those that cannot return the favor is the height of agape of love; however, such service must never be at the expense of the dignity and integrity of our God-designed being and purpose. Put another way, biblical self-denial (good when we surrender our selfishness) is not personal self-destruction.
  • Two: We must forgive readily without excusing real transgressions or pretending the traumas did not occur. Forgiveness is powerful because we are desiring the best for another who sinned against God, us and others. We must not keep a “rap sheet” of grievances against others or ourselves.
  • Three: There is no merit in unwise vulnerability that leads to abuse and co-dependence. Psalm 16:6 declares that God puts boundaries in pleasant places. This reference to property lines works for our souls as well. Minor irritations are one thing; constant emotional rejection and subjugation is not something we must willfully engage.

Four positive insights will help guide healthy relationships – and love wisely expressed is the mark of the followers of Jesus.

  • One: Release unhealthy expectations and learn to receive whatever others can give. When we stop our “emotional accounting” and choose the good of others over our own momentary feelings, life becomes richer.
  • If married, enjoy God together and discover the shared mission/purpose of your marriage and your family (when and if children are part of household). If you cultivate a rich inner life and can connect your daily activities with divine callings, then issues of communication, romance and economics are faced and conquered together.
  • In the world of work, decide ahead of time that your advancement will never come at the expense of integrity and fair treatment of others. Diligence, honesty, teamwork and genuine concern for others may cost you occasional promotions, but your opportunities for influence will grow and sleeping at night is a good thing!
  • Self-care is not selfish. Proper diet and exercise, time for solitude, boundaries with hurting and selfish folks (while serving them) and replenishment in the presence of God and his Creation help us serve others. There is no glory in unnecessary burnout.

Integrating the spiritual, emotional and relational dimensions of life requires clarity and focus, some emotional discipline and, above all, love and humility. Adulthood is more about discipline than income and maturity is expressed in the unselfish quality of our interactions more than information acquisition or positional attainment. Let enjoy growing up!