Humility and ‘the fruit of the Spirit’

Today’s contributor brings out the importance of humility and what it has to do with expressing and understanding God.

Christian Science Perspective audio edition
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I was moved to read in a recent editorial in The Christian Science Monitor that to German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, humility is the most important quality in life. The editorial noted her Christian faith, which she describes as her “inner compass.” And it added that “she draws people together by gentleness, or what might be called sweet and tender reason” (“Gentleness as a German export,” March 5, 2018).

Such qualities, wherever found ­­– whether in leaders or in the rest of us – fit right within a description of “the fruit of the Spirit” found in the Bible. A letter to the Galatians attributed to the Apostle Paul says: “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance” (5:22, 23). As I’ve thought about these qualities, particularly meekness, I’ve come to understand that we express them more fully as we let our love for God inspire a greater unselfishness toward others. A love for God – good – leads away from a preoccupation with self and toward a natural joy in doing good for others.

Christ Jesus considered humility to be highly important. During his ministry, he saw the need to nurture humility in his disciples when he discerned that they were concerned about who would be greatest. Jesus stated, “He that is greatest among you, let him be as the younger; and he that is chief, as he that doth serve” (Luke 22:26). Jesus understood that humility, not self-serving pride, is what constitutes greatness, which is expressed in wanting to serve, more than seeking to be served, and in one’s effort to be self-effacing rather than self-glorifying. He knew that this humble surrender of self is what leads to the perception of genuine goodness and peace.

Like Jesus and Paul, Mary Baker Eddy, who founded this publication, is clear on the power and importance of humility. She says, “Human pride is human weakness. Self-knowledge, humility, and love are divine strength” (“Miscellaneous Writings 1883-1896,” p. 358). Humility not only grounds us in God’s strength but also gives us the ability to understand and express the goodness that is truly ours as God’s offspring. Humility teaches us that letting go of selfishness isn’t limiting but freeing, as it opens up our thought to the genuine joy of being and doing good. As God’s creation we can only reflect His goodness, manifest in all good qualities. Through my study of Christian Science, I have come to see that those good qualities, including humility, don’t have their origin in us personally, but in God, Spirit.

Recently I’ve been praying to recognize this reality for myself and to express it by striving for more humility in my interactions with others. This has opened my heart to being more willing to see things from others’ perspectives and learn from them, to be more deferential and less self-serving. A small but concrete example of my growth in humility took place when I was able to apologize freely and sincerely to an individual after I had taken particular actions in my own interest, rather than opening my heart to seeing things from their perspective, too.

Bottom line – I’m learning and continuing to grow in my understanding of humility every day. It’s something we can all do, as “the fruit of the Spirit” isn’t given to some and not others but inherently belongs to us all. When self-serving pride yields to humility, and selfishness yields to unselfishness, we more clearly see the goodness of God expressed in our individual lives, and we more readily perceive it in our neighbors’ as well.

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Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.