Faith does not brag, gloat, or toot its horn

As a high school senior preparing to go off to college on a full scholarship, my father gave me bits of advice — one statement:  On your way up the ladder of success, be nice to the people who you pass up —– because on your way back down, you will meet the same people.

This piece of advice [like others] did not mean that much at the time.   But, I assure you, I have remembered it — and understood its meaning from experience.

I have no doubt that there are people who live a life of eternal bliss.  They seem not to have the normal “ups and downs” — they seem to be blessed with a life of overwhelming UPs.  But, I believe that most of us who have helped others, have at some point in time needed the help and support of others.

For sure in my life, I have known the “good feeling” of helping someone, seeing them get up and move forward.  I have shared with others their joy when a kind word or a pat on the back has brought a smile to their face.  IN EQUAL MEASURE, I have known the support of a helping hand, a word of comfort, presence in a lonely moment, encouragement when it was hard to move forward.

Want a friend?  Be a friend first!  Want a way to keep people at bay?  Brag, gloat, toot your own horn.  Those who lord it over others may rise to the top ….. but they keep people far away.

In recent weeks we have heard from Scripture …. Vanity of Vanities — all things are vanity.    Among all things is glory and honor — which are fleeting.

Be rich in the things that matter —- being number one is not always the thing that matters.  Being on top is not always something that matters.  Winning is not always the most important thing.

Where your treasure is — so too will your heart be.  If dominating others is the goal, then it does not matter who you step on.  If conquering all is in your sight, then who you ignore or take advantage of matters not.

Faith has no room for arrogance, bragging, gloating ….. faith is STRONG AND ITS STRENGTH IS MADE MANIFEST IN HUMILITY.

Most of us remember Muhammad Ali proclaiming, “I am the GREATEST.”  And, he well may have been the best boxer of his time.  But now, watching him move slowly and speaking with difficulty, we see the ravages of Parkinson’s disease and how quickly the mighty can fall.  We recall the vibrant skiing and hiking Pope John Paul II …. and we remember the stooped JP II being pushed down St. Peter’s aisle on a cart.  LIFE TENDS TO BALANCE THINGS OUT.

Life and the events of life have a way of humbling most of us.  Why create more troubles by acting like we are above all people and all things?  Why make light of the plight of others as if we are “not like the rest of mankind.”    I have visited too many people in ICU units or on their deathbed’s to think that anyone of us is SO STRONG AND POWERFUL THAT WE NEED NO ONE OR THE HELP OF NO ONE.

Want a friend?  Be a friend!  Want a friend — help others and be one with others.

Humility does not mean we put ourselves BENEATH others or below others.  It just means we do not live as if we are better than others or more blessed or more privileged than others.  NO ONE DESERVES ALL THE PERKS OF BEING ABOVE OR SPECIAL.

Honors are not bad.  Being recognized for accomplishment is not bad.  All of us like to hear “thank you” and to feel appreciated for what we do.  The problem with the Pharisees in the Gospel [Luke 14: 1, 7-14] is that they were CHOOSING PLACES OF HONOR at the table.  They EXPECTED TO BE RECOGNIZED.  They felt they were ENTITLED TO SPECIAL TREATMENT because of their position.

Life will often humble us.  Things happen that we never “dreamed” would happen, do happen.  We feel empty.  It JUST HAPPENS.  But, when one EXALTS him/her-self — they are setting themselves up for the big fall.

The words from Sirach [3:17-18,20,28-29] are clear:  Conduct your affairs with humility, and you will be loved more than a giver of gifts.  Humble yourself the more, the greater you are, and you will find favor with God.

Here is what we can do:

> Say thank you when someone shows appreciation or recognition — there is nothing wrong with acknowledging the good we do when another initiates the appreciation.

> False humility stinks as much as arrogance —  seeing someone “shy away from praise”, while all the while making a scene is not an expression of humility.  When someone tries to “deflect” thanks —- while drawing attention to themselves is not what Jesus had in mind.

> Share the honor — let others who were a part of a success be called forth, too.  Be clear that what has happened is not because of you/me —– I may have been the face, but the hands, heart, and legs belonged to others.

Dr. Martin Luther King was remembered this past week on the anniversary of “his” I Have a Dream speech.  But the power of August 29, 1963 was not just because of the speech — it was because of the 1,000’s and 1,000’s of people who came from the north, south, east, and west.  People who walked, came by bus, car, trains, and planes joined together to create a mass of humanity to hear and embody his words.  For many of us, we have just recently learned that the words I HAVE A DREAM were not part of the original speech —- and that as Dr. King was finishing, Mahalia Jackson kept saying to him, “Tell them about the dream Martin — tell them about the dream!”  And, he did.

What do you really think about a braggart?  What do you feel about others who are “glory hogs”?  What do you believe about others who push their way to the top by stepping on others?  What do you feel about those who act as if they deserve everything they have and even more?  Most of us would say —- I don’t like them and really do not want to be around them.

So, let’s not be that kind of man or woman.  Everything we have and everything we are has come to us as gift —- gift.  That alone should bring about a sense of humility.

hjm

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