Something has been on my heart this morning that I want to share. A little over a year ago, Bill began studying humility because it became very apparent to us how prideful we really were. After looking at this topic, we began to believe that pridefulness is at the root of all sinfulness. I can’t think of a sin to date that has not stemmed from my ambition for greatness. Anger–I think I’m better than someone and don’t deserve to be wronged. Envy–I want an easy life and think I’m worthy of it. Sexual sin–I only care about my own pleasure, not God’s glory. Worry–I think I can control my life and don’t trust God to control it. The list goes on and on.
Bill read C.J. Mahaney’s book Humility: True Greatness when we first began looking at this, and God has truly changed his life as a result. One of the great truths we realized from this book was the importance of being vulnerable. The Holy Spirit helped us realize that to have true humility, we must realize how sinful and unworthy of Christ’s love we are. A step to truly understanding God’s greatness is to be absolutely raw about our sinfulness with others. So, with difficulty, I began putting this into practice.
When I began to be truly honest, let me tell you what happened. People began to lose respect for me. Sounds appealing, huh? Here’s why this is so great, though. I think I am great. No, you don’t understand. I think I’m greater than all of you who are reading this post. In fact, I think God gave me as a gift to this world and this world is better because I’m here. I think I am the wisest, most godly woman who was ever created, and I think everyone should highly respect me and want to come to me for counsel. Many of you who have talked to me have thought I really cared about what you were saying, but really I was thinking about my own superiority to you. This is not an exaggeration. It is the absolute truth.
Now that you all know my true heart, I would venture to say many of you no longer think as highly of me as you maybe did once (and you probably never thought that highly of me in the first place, praise God!). That is an example of what has happened to me often since I have been pursuing true honesty. The more detailed I get about my sin, the more it makes me feel like people don’t respect me, and the more I realize how much of a peon I am compared to God’s glory.
Here’s what I think. Almost every Christian I know will admit that they are sinful. How many times have we heard preachers, teachers, and fellow believers say things like, “I am so prideful” or “I’ve not loved others”? How about “I don’t pray as much as I should” or “I am not a good parent”? Though confessions like this are not wrong, I believe most of the time they do more harm than good because they are generalizations that can cause more pridefulness. We think, “I ‘confessed’ my sin. I’m great!” The fact is, confessions like this very rarely confess much of anything.
What if Christians began admitting things like this: “I don’t pray because I have no desire to. I don’t really believe it will do any good.” Or, “I sometimes get so angry at my child that I want to hit him/her in an abusive way.” Or, “I enjoy it when someone who has wronged me suffers.” What about, “When I have sex with my spouse, my main concern is my own pleasure.” Even confessing to a friend, “As we’re talking right now, I am feeling like I am much wiser than you.”
Let’s admit it. If someone we knew, especially our pastor in the pulpit, actually got this specific or more so, most of us would be at least a little shocked. It would probably make us uncomfortable and we would wish it hadn’t been said. However, I believe most Christians feel things similar to these statements quite often (I know all the above have been in my heart at one time or another, and I still don’t confess them openly). Guess what, that makes us grotesque sinners, and we need to confess that. Jesus did not call us to confess only those sins that don’t make us look too bad, but all sins. God knows every thought in our hearts all the time, and if we don’t call others to hold us accountable for our sinfulness, we run the risk of forgetting how sinful we really are.
Here’s the deal. If we begin to look too righteous, God begins to look less so. How can others understand God’s grace if they don’t think we’re all that bad? Actually, how can we ourselves understand it if we see ourselves as wise and pure in our own eyes? It is an abomination.
My challenge to all of you is to make yourself, not just let yourself, be vulnerable. Be intentional about it. Be so raw about confessing your sin to others that you begin to feel like no one respects you anymore. Then give all glory to God for His greatness and righteousness. Be reminded and remind others of how amazing His grace really is, that He chose us, even us who are this wretched and disgusting. How the world would be transformed if all Christians would strive for this kind of humility!
(For clarification, I think it’s important to note that I have never and could never harm either of my children. I’m afraid something I said above may have given that implication, and I want to make it clear that though I, along with every other parent, can get pretty frustrated with my kids, I would never abuse them. Abuse is a sad and appalling act, one that I do not and would not condone.)