I write a lot about humility. It is the hardest aspect of character I continue to learn and in my opinion it is the thing the nation most needs to learn right now. But so much of the problem is we barely understand what it is. I was struck by this given the recent response from the White House regarding the catch-and-release of US Naval Personnel by the Iranians:
White House spokesman Josh Earnest was asked by Fox News’ Doug McKelway at Friday’s press briefing whether the White House was embarrassed by the pictures that came out of Iran of the 10 U.S. sailors on their knees with their hands behind their heads.
Earnest said that the White House was not and that the primary concern was that the sailors were unharmed.
“I don’t think that there is any reason for anybody to be embarrassed. I think there is reason for us to be certainly relieved that our service men and women who are protecting America in a very dangerous part of the world were released pretty shortly after they were taken into custody,” Earnest said.
There is a smugness to the administrations response to that line of questioning that reveals a complete misunderstanding of humility. It is as if they think the sacrifice of power is what makes one humble when in fact genuine humility comes from the use of power, not its sacrifice.
There is no more powerful example than the example of Christ, God incarnate.
Consider the story of Jesus before Pilate. Yes, Jesus is on his knees, bound and beaten, but does He apologize? Does He tell Pilate how powerful Pilate is? Does He deny His power? Nay, Jesus claims His power, telling Pilate he has it correct when he calls Him “King of the Jews.” But still he stays on his knees bound and beaten. That’s humility.
In point of fact, the important thing was NOT that Jesus’ life was saved – because it wasn’t. Christ’s genuine humility lay in the fact that despite all that power, He allowed His own death because that death served a greater good.
Setting my power aside still keeps me in the spotlight, and there is nothing humble about that. Humility is not setting aside power, humility is using power for the good of the other – placing the needs of the other ahead of my own. With power sacrifice is meaningful; without it sacrifice is just death.