I recently read a Twitter post from apologist author Timothy Keller that said, “True gospel humility means I stop connecting every experience, every conversation with myself. I stop thinking about myself altogether.” At this juncture in my life, this is about as feasible as dropping out of society and becoming a cloistered contemplative, much to my dismay. Some days I long to renounce the trappings of suburbia. Maybe next year.
I pondered Dr. Keller’s tweet because I have toiled for the past six years on a memoir which, as the genre describes, is all about me and moi. I replied @Timothy Keller that I needed to “connect every experience, every conversation with myself” for self-awareness in light of my spiritual walk. I long to help others avoid the zigzagged path I took in search of my true self.
I got Dr. Keller’s meaning: “True gospel humility” is the ideal I am to strive for, just like “be perfect even as my Father in heaven is perfect” seems completely unattainable, yet that’s what the gospel calls me to do.
Dr. Keller’s tweet reminded me how often I cross over from self-awareness to self-absorption. At times I am too sensitive to the words or actions of another as if he or she purposely targeted me rather than had a situation or a point to make that had absolutely nothing to do with me. There is a social psychology explanation for this tendency called the fundamental attribution error. I’ve written about this before because I’m guilty of attributing other’s bad behavior to their personality, while giving myself a pass because of my situation.
But, when I make it all about me, I take offense and play the victim. This allows me to ignore the consequences of my behavior that may have contributed to another’s viewpoint and also assuages my fragile ego. Playing the victim is not true victimization. I’m not talking about crime victimization, discrimination, or abuse—that is altogether different.
I am referring to times when I ignore the plank in my own eye in order to remove the speck in someone else’s. I deflect my responsibility onto someone else and make myself appear as the injured party. Then, everything that is said or done in that situation is filtered through the lens of distorted self-justification.
When this occurs, I am self-absorbed not self-aware. Self-absorption is pride which is the opposite of humility. True humility is freeing and vital for my inner peace. Even Jesus, a truly innocent victim, commanded, “forgive them for they know not what they do” and “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”
When I stop “connecting every experience, every conversation with myself” and release the pettiness of my supposed persecution, it will not be hard to love my enemies. I will have extra energy to devote to higher endeavors: praying for and serving others, even those who I used to think of as enemies, because prayer transforms relationships.
If I release my self-absorption, I can still be self-aware in light of my walk with God because I will possess true gospel humility. Stay tuned.
Mentoring Opportunity: Do you struggle with humility? Offer your tips and experiences so that we can all grow together on this rocky road to wholeness.