In the headline of a recent editorial, the Monitor asked, “Will a humbled VW now adopt a leadership model of humility?” (CSMonitor.com). The editorial board observed, “Volkswagen’s cheating on the emissions testing of its diesel cars ... has become an object lesson in the perils of corporate arrogance,” noting that the present need is a fundamental shift to a culture based on humility.
That humility is a sound, even strong, basis for success may seem counterintuitive, if we think of humility as underachieving or letting others walk all over us. But let’s think about the example Christ Jesus left us. His many deeds include healing the sick and sinning, raising the dead, walking on water, and stilling the storm. It was humility – in its deepest, truest sense – that enabled Jesus to do all that he did. “I do nothing of myself,” Jesus said, “but as my Father hath taught me, I speak these things” (John 8:28).
This statement of Jesus’, then, was not one of weakness. Rather, it was an acknowledgment that the qualities he expressed – his strength, kindness, and ability to prove so tangibly the supremacy of God, divine Spirit – were not based in a mortal being or human personality; these qualities were derived from God.
The promise of Jesus’ example is for all time. Because we are all God’s spiritual ideas, reflecting Him (see Genesis 1:26, 27), our true capabilities originate in God, infinite good. In the Bible, we read, “Be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble” (I Peter 5:5).
Claiming a personal superiority would impede our discernment of the reality of who God is and who we are – each of us His spiritual likeness. When we humbly open our thought to the infinitude of God’s presence and power – and our true nature as God’s reflection – we increasingly find it natural to express Godlike qualities, including strength, intelligence, grace, and many others. This blesses our experience and those around us.
One time, in a horseback riding lesson, I was assigned a certain horse that was not often used in lessons; the instructors and trainers were particularly thoughtful about who rode her because she had some challenging sensitivities and quirks. I felt rather pleased with myself upon being assigned this particular horse, and with confidence born of arrogance I anticipated a ride that would impress my instructor and fellow lesson-mates.
Yet this was not to be; the horse and I were frustrated with each other before I even mounted, and the ride itself didn’t go very well, either. I was horribly embarrassed.
In the week following, I gave a lot of thought to what had happened. I thought of this statement by Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science: “Human pride is human weakness. Self-knowledge, humility, and love are divine strength” (“Miscellaneous Writings 1883-1896,” p. 358). This helped me see that by letting personal pride lead me, I had been unreceptive to the fact that God alone is the source and creator of all, including man. As I mentally turned toward God, the fact of His intelligent and loving government of all began to fill my thought, dissolving the arrogance I had previously felt.
At my next lesson, I was surprised to learn that I had been assigned that same horse. This time, instead of thinking about how I might glorify myself, I prayed to better glorify God during the ride. In other words, I prayed to understand that God has the only real strength and power and that He gives us all we need.
That was the beginning of a very special, joyous relationship between me and the horse. As sweet as that was, though, even more meaningful was the clearer understanding I gained about man’s identity as the spiritual reflection of God. As the Epistle of James promises, “Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up” (4:10).
We all have the ability to humble ourselves and to experience the good effects that come with such humbling.