a very fine line…

Oh Lord it’s hard to be humble
When you’re perfect in every way…
Oh Lord It’s hard to be humble,
But I’m doing the best that I can
– Mac Davis

Have you ever asked a child what they are good at? Most children can tell you without hesitation. I enjoyed watching Allen Funt on Candid Camera and my favorite episodes were when he would interview children. One little girl had an answer that has stuck with me for forty years. When asked what she was good at, she replied, “Hitting my little brother.” You have to admire her honesty!

I love that about children; the way that they can be open about their talents. I also like that you can tell them that they are good at something and their response will simply be, “Thank you.” So why is it so hard for us, as adults, to accept praise when it is offered to us? To admit our talents or acknowledge a kindness we’ve done? Too many times, it’s waived away before the words have left the lips of the admirer. It’s the same way when you try to thank someone. What’s the standard reply? “It was no big deal.”

In his book, Humility Rules, Father Augustine Wetta, O.S.B., writes, “Self-abasement is not self-deprecation, but self-knowledge. So, if you really are good at something, it is no act of humility to belittle your talents. When you do that, you just wind up insulting God, who gave you those talents in the first place.”

God gave us all talents…gifts. So, when we acknowledge where they came from, then we are praising the one who gave them to us to begin with. False humility comes from playing down what we are or have accomplished. It goes hand in hand with pride. Thomas Aquinas, in Summa Theologica, wrote “It is a sign of humility if a man does not think too much of himself. But if a man condemns the good things he has received from God, this, far from being proof of humility, shows him to be ungrateful.”

I have a gift for writing. I’ve written stories since I was a little girl. It’s a way for me to express myself and it helps me organize my thoughts, which, if left in my head, would just wander around aimlessly. Of course, this doesn’t mean that everyone will like my writing or that what I write will have any meaning or value beyond the blessing it is to me. But it is a gift that God gave me and so I try to use it to return honor to Him.

Steve Winwood wrote, in his song, Split Decision, “it’s a fine line…a very fine line.” The line between being humble and false humility is indeed fine. Is it a sin to acknowledge your talents? Of course not. For a long time, I would downplay any compliment that came my way, especially about my writing. It embarrassed me and so I would say, “Oh, I just threw that one together…it wasn’t very good.” It not only was an insult to God, but to the person who enjoyed it enough to complimented me.

Jim was the one who told me, “Just say, ‘Thank you.’” Putting myself down was false humility. But acknowledging that gift seemed like pride. When I finally understood that a compliment to me was really a compliment to God, it changed the way I reacted. If my talent points back to God, it has accomplished what God gave it to me for. Sometimes, the act of humility is in accepting praise from someone else, by allowing them to express their gratitude or appreciation.

What are the gifts that God has given you? Are you using them to bring glory to Him?

Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers: all good giving and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no alteration or shadow caused by change.  James 1:16-17

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