By Dr. Donald E. Phillips
There once was a humble, faithful person who never missed church or Sunday school. He was so dependable for so long, the church awarded him a special medal recognizing his great humility. Unfortunately, when he tried to wear it, they took it back!
Pride is a touchy subject. We can have too much or too little of it. Positive pride is a winning attitude. Negative pride is boasting, egotism, elitism, jealousy, or envy. Such problems can lead to resentment of another’s good fortune or success.
FULFILLING A ROLE
God calls us according to his purposes. We should be humbled by his choosing us. Acts 13:36 says, “When David had served God’s purpose in his own generation, he fell asleep.” What a challenge and assurance: live a purposeful life in God’s will in your time, place, and generation, and you will be forever gathered into God’s kingdom!
Everyone has roles—positions, high or low, which help identify, guide, and fulfill God’s callings for ourselves and others. Everyone has role expectations to bring out our best, shaping who we are and what we do. Role fulfillment brings us into our destiny and life mission, what God wants us to be, how and where he wants us to serve.
Life has much meaning in specific roles. My main jobs have been preacher, shepherd, university professor, administrator, hospice chaplain, and writer. Transitional roles included grocery and police department jobs. But all of these jobs increased in meaning as I saw great value in my personal roles: parent, grandparent, cousin, uncle, sibling, friend, soul mate. There can be great joy in roles we play and ones others play for us.
Psalm 84:10 says, “Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere; I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked.”
God uses us in many roles and places. But sometimes we complain, find fault, and displease God through jealousy, anger, or various confrontations. Our attitudes and behaviors may cause trouble, fueling relationship conflicts.
Roles call us to work with competence and caring. Attitudes make a big difference in success and satisfaction. Some have attitude problems and are even proud of it. Some adopt a very assertive style. Others find that a more positive, encouraging tone in personal and professional interactions works better. Whatever our roles and styles, let’s please God, as ultimately we are accountable servants of his will.
SATISFIED WITH SECOND
A challenge occurs when someone feels he or she is playing second fiddle to another. The grieved person feels he or she could do better than one who is seen as a problem person. When one thinks one’s supervisor is a problem person, conflict may occur and relationship tensions escalate.
“Playing second fiddle” literally means occupying an important but support position in an orchestra, band, or similar role. Broadly, figuratively, it can involve satisfaction or dissatisfaction by a subordinate role in a group, church, organization, or workplace. Consider the following guidelines for finding satisfaction when you are in a second-fiddle position:
Be a role player. Thank God for opportunities to prepare and grow. Contribute your gifts and calling to others. Let role acceptance contribute personal peace and satisfaction. See yourself as part of God’s purposes for individuals, society, church, and the nation. Accept a greater sense of God’s purposes leading from this world to God’s kingdom. Access God’s wisdom and authority through Christ. God has plans for all of us. Partner with others in those plans.
Talk yourself up, not down. Keep positive. Believe in you and what you do. Romans 12:3 says, “Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.”
Others may verbally attack you—surprisingly, at times, it may be other Christians, family members, spouses, children, employers, or coworkers. When this happens, affirm truth about yourself and others. Think highly of yourself but not more highly than you should. Don’t take yourself too seriously but seriously enough. Act with dignity. Respect your own and others’ boundaries. Give and expect respect. Act respectfully toward yourself and others. Develop a thick skin. Don’t be overly sensitive.
Assert Yourself Humbly
Be assertive, confident, positive.
Ken Boen—a world champion steer wrestler, rodeo clown, and movie stunt man—came to Christ out of a rough life. But he exhibited a graciousness and humility after he became a Christian and gave of himself in serving others. A large, tall, muscular man who played double for TV stars, Ken was a changed man who balanced meekness, modesty, and kindness with being a strong man in a tough career.
The Bible tells of people and circumstances when godless pride led to trouble, wars, ego problems, and a self-centered vanity.
Once I tried to become a professional songwriter. At a songwriters conference I attended some sessions and asked a songwriter friend to tell me about one I couldn’t attend. She described the highly successful songwriter and performer whose presentation she heard—“He’s a legend in his own mind.”
Some people can get along with such boasting. “Dizzy” Dean, a legendary 1930s baseball pitcher, said, “It ain’t bragging if you can do it.” Dizzy could do it—he could be an outstanding winner, but he was also an optimist and peaceful in spirit. Titus 3:1, 2 says, “Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate and always to be gentle toward everyone.”
Avoid spiritual “holier than thou” attitudes or any attitude of superiority. Instead, be supportive. I once attended a spiritual conference where my minister friend leaned over and said, “The spiritual pride here is so thick you could cut it with a knife.” One speaker, abetting that perception, testified, “Thank God I’m saved, sanctified, and haven’t sinned in 17 years.”
Humility is a part of every Christian’s calling: God deliberately chooses lowly and despised persons to serve him (1 Corinthians 1:26-31). And 1 Peter 5:6 says, “Humble yourselves . . . under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.” While James 4:6 says, “But he gives us more grace.” That is why we are told “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.”
Allow a Servant’s Heart
Worldly standards focus on self-fulfillment. True Christianity, while actualizing the individual, emphasizes Christ in us leading us, affirming others gladly. Let us cultivate a servant’s heart in attending to others’ needs, putting them first.
Accept Courage and Action
It can be easy to talk about many things but procrastinate without acting. We must muster up courage to do what’s needed. One communication department secretary at a university had a desk sign saying “Hang Tough. Be Tough.” She was one of the nicest persons I’ve ever known and very efficient. But she had the strength of character to act appropriately in timely ways. Fittingly, our department chair was a retired Marine Lt. Colonel, a strong man in many ways and a Christian leader who worked for God’s higher purposes.
Work for a higher purpose than self alone. Be a leader or follower with a broader, deeper picture of what your work means, how it connects with and serves others, and how your work may benefit eternity and God’s will. Be your own person. Be visionary, courageous, decisive, action-oriented (after weighing important questions and answers). Be courageous but wise in relationships. Remember: The will of God will not lead you where God’s grace cannot keep you.
Thank God that at the foot of the cross the ground is level. If you follow biblical guidelines for a second-fiddle role, your place and performance will lead you forward.
Fulfill your destiny in Christ. Let Christ live in and increase in you. Let him be the principal conductor of your life.
Dr. Donald E. Phillips is a freelance writer in Lawrence, Kansas.
Stopping Jealousy in Its Tracks
Jealousy is the enemy of humility. It’s easy to be mad at others for the way they are, mad at yourself for not being as good as you want to be, and mad at God for not making you who you think you should be. Here’s wisdom to help you battle envy.