by Andrew Brown, LLP

“Humility flourishes in a life examined.”

What God Does

Humility comes from wisdom (James 3:13-18). In an age of seemingly endless knowledge, we need wisdom more than ever. Wisdom is an active (“lived-out”) understanding of God’s preeminent significance, and the deep value of every person He made and loves.

James made it clear that God gives this wisdom to anyone who asks with sincere and steadfast faith (James 1:5-8).

Jesus exemplified this wisdom and the humility that it produces (Philippians 2:1-11). In addition, he provides tremendous motivation for us to pursue this quality (Matt. 20:26Mark 9:33-36James 4:6-10).

What You Can Do

Stop, Look, and Listen

– Stop pursuit of your goals and desires long enough to make time for others.

– Look at the people around you—in your home, on your team, and in your community. See their immense value as people created in the image of God who are on a journey, pursuing significant needs and desires.

– Listen—as a fellow human, with a goal of compassionate understanding. Ask questions, make eye contact, and resist the urge to formulate a response as people are talking. What do you hear coming from the person’s heart?

What We Can Do Together

Humility is primarily a relational concept (with God, others, and reality). Self-report assessments of humility are of little benefit. True humility is revealed in our thoughts and feelings about others—and how those thoughts and feelings are communicated. One of the best measures of humility we have is honest feedback from others. Rather than judging one’s level of humility (which is an internal, heart-level concept), they can offer feedback about how humility or superiority is communicated through words and actions. Of course, some level of humility is needed just to ask for this feedback with genuine openness and also to offer this feedback in a way that conveys honor and love. It is clear though, that we need others who will join with us in pursuit of true humility.

Are you ready to seek God’s wisdom and a truer understanding of our value before him? Are you ready to join with others, pursuing deeper humility and discovering the fruit of peace and righteousness that it brings?

The following are some ways to proceed:

  1. Prayerfully study the book of James. In order to experience the “humility that comes from wisdom” we must “ask our generous God,” making sure that our “faith is in God alone” (James 3:13, 1:5,6).
  2. Learn to be a good listener. The book, The Lost Art of Listening is very helpful.
  3. Live a life examined—inviting honest feedback from others.

Russell Johnson, Stanley Silverman, and their team of researchers recently developed a scale called the WARS, that lists behaviors associated with arrogance or humility. While not readily available in a form useful for non-research purposes, the items of the scale have been validated and are quite helpful. They are intended to be rated by coworkers on a scale of 1 (strongly disagree) to 5 (strongly agree).

The following is a selection of useful items included on the WARS[1]:

+ Willing to listen to others’ opinions, ideas, or perspectives

+ Welcomes constructive feedback

+ Avoids getting angry when his/her ideas are criticized

+ Is willing to take credit for success as well as blame for failure

+ Does not see him/herself as being too important for some tasks

+ Puts organizational objectives before his/her personal agenda

– Believes that s/he knows better than everyone else in any given situation

– Makes decisions that impact others without listening to their input

– Asserts authority in situations when s/he does not have the required information

– Discredits others’ ideas during meetings and often makes those individuals look bad

– Does not find it necessary to explain his/her decisions to others

– Criticizes others

Potential uses for personal development:

– Specific items could be targeted for improvement during a specific time period, after which, feedback is sought from others regarding progress.

– Used as feedback from others as part of an Individual Growth Plan.

Potential uses for leadership selection/development:

– Ratings could be requested from references for leadership/team candidates.

– Select items could be included during annual feedback from team members.

– Items could be generalized to address team dynamics as part of a review process.

  1. Another helpful resource is the free e-book published by Routledge entitled, Becoming a Better LeaderIt addresses a variety of topics, highlighting the importance of being a humble leader and a good follower.

[1] Johnson, R., Silverman, S., Shyamsunder, A., Swee, H., Rodopman, O., Cho, E., & Bauer, J. (2010). Acting Superior But Actually Inferior?: Correlates and Consequences of Workplace Arrogance. Human Performance, 403-427.

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