I gave a talk on humility last Sunday. I thought today I might share it here.
I’m sure many of us are familiar with a pair of Chinese handcuffs. For those kids out there who haven’t run across a pair yet, they look like this. They are sometimes given out as party favors. They are tricky little things. I remember the first time I curiously put my fingers into them to see what they were all about. It was only a few minutes before I felt trapped and a little worried about how I would ever get them off. Then someone told me to stop pulling my hands apart and put them together instead. As a child, I couldn’t understand how in the world that could get my fingers apart but I was desperate enough to give it a try at that point. Although the instruction seemed counter intuitive, it worked. It loosened the handcuffs enough that I could gently slide my fingers out.
Many principles of the gospel are counter intuitive just like these Chinese handcuff. Today I have been asked to speak on one of those, Humility.
Humility is one of those things I try never to pray for because I am afraid of the experiences the Lord my send my way that would grant my prayer and compel humility. I have had a few of those and they are difficult ways to learn. Whenever possible, I prefer to humble myself. Preparing this talk has helped me examine a few ways to do just that and I hope you too will find something in it that can help you increase your humility.
So how is Humility counter intuitive? Often, when we think of a humble person, we think of someone who is weak and powerless or who doesn’t feel good about themselves. While those people may be humble, true humility does not require any of those things. True Humility comes through Knowing our Standing before the Lord, Submission to His Will in all things, and Selflessness. Think of these as the 3 S’s of Humility. STANDING, SUBMISSION, SELFLESSNESS.
STANDING King Benjamin is one of my favorite examples of humility from the scriptures. We have been talking about him in Primary as our scripture this month is Mosiah 2:17 when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God. Here he was a king. Most kings have servants doing service for them all day. But King Benjamin was a different kind of King and in the verses in Mosiah 2 he lays out that he is just the same as every other person in the Kingdom. He notes that he has not been living off taxes of the people but has spent his life Serving his fellow beings with his own two hands and thus serving God. He then notes if they feel thankful to him they ought to be thankful to their heavenly king even more.
In Verses 20-21 he says: “I say unto you, my brethren, that if you should render all the thanks and praise which your whole soul has power to possess, to that God who has created you, and has kept and preserved you, and has caused that ye should rejoice, and has granted that ye should live in peace one with another—
21 I say unto you that if ye should serve him who has created you from the beginning,
and is preserving you from day to day, by lending you breath, that ye may live and move and do according to your own will,
and even supporting you from one moment to another—
I say, if ye should serve him with all your whole souls yet ye would be unprofitable servants.”
True humility comes through knowing both that we owe everything we are to the Lord and also that due to our sins we have zero standing before Him. We literally cannot stand in His presence.
And yet we are taught from the time we are born that we are children of God and Heirs to Him with the potential to become like Him. We are-- each of us -- Princes and Princesses in the Kingdom of the Almighty God. We are each of infinite worth and precious in His sight.
But like the handcuffs, in order to attain our potential we must humble ourselves and realize all our worth comes from our connection to that Great Being who created us and our potential made possible only by the Savior’s atonement.
We are all Eternally indebted.
Every thing, every talent, every blessing in our lives is only ours because the Lord has LENT them to us.
The only thing that is truly ours-- and even this was granted to us from Him-- is our agency. That brings us to the second S of Humility. Sumbission.
SUBMISSION Once we truly realize our Standing before the Lord, we ought to be sufficiently humble to use our gift of agency to Submit to His will. Submission is an ACT of humility. The world often portrays or sees submission as a sign of weakness. In this they are mistaken. Counter intuitively, like the Chinese handcuffs, acts of submission require great strength and brings power.
It is harder to be humble than it is to be proud. It is a very difficult thing to adopt the Lord’s will when it goes directly against our own desires or will directly hurt us. Such submission requires great courage and strength.
Sometimes, it requires strength beyond what we possess. In those cases it also requires great faith. Faith that the Lord will bless us with power and strength to see us through the trial to which we are submitting.
Each of us in this life will be faced with our own personal Gethsemene. Perhaps we will face more than one of those type of trials. These are trials that make us shrink and not want to drink the bitter cup.
Maybe it is following and sustaining a priesthood leader you don’t agree with on an issue,
or sacrificing monetarily to follow the will of the Lord in your life path,
or accepting the will of the Lord in the death of a loved one. Perhaps it is something even harder like a trial that has come into your life by another person’s wrong doing.
When we are faced with such trials it is easier to be angry and think “Why ME?” than to let ourselves feel the depth of the hurt. But in this we must look to the example the Savior set for us. The Savior himself did not ask WHY ME when He was asked to drink the bitter cup. He asked 3 times if there was any other way. He did not want to do it. But of course there was no other way and in the end, He submitted to the Father’s will.
Think of the strength and courage and faith that submission took. And think of the power born of that submission. As Richard Edgley, said in his 2003 conference talk,
“His submitting His will to the Father brought about the greatest, and even the most powerful, event in all of history. Perhaps some of the most sacred words in all the scriptures are simply, “Not my will, but thine, be done”
We must not underestimate the power of that act of the Savior’s submission we call the Atonement. Because of the Atonement, we can benefit and grow from even the most difficult of trials when we set aside doubt and anger and exercise the faith to humbly submit the Hurt we feel to the Savior to heal. It may take time.
But I testify to you that the Savior can and will heal any and all hurt that we humbly bring Him. It may take years but He can and will bind up the broken heart that is fully submitted to Him.
Only when we use our agency as the Savior did in submitting to the Father’s will in all things can we truly show our love and gratitude to the Lord for all His many blessings. And in submitting in humility the Lord blesses us with strength to endure and eventually over come our trials and bring us to salvation and exaltation.
That leaves us with our 3rd S. SELFLESSNESS.
Humble people don’t need to lack self esteem. We need not feel lower than other people to be humble. We need to feel lowly in comparison with deity and equal to all other humans. And as equals we choose to be modest in the sense that we do not self promote. Humble people look outside themselves. They focus on others.
In 2010 Brandon Stanton, a photographer, began a blog called Humans of NY. He began photographing people on the streets of NYC and telling a little of their story one by one. He now shares these on Facebook as well and has published his Blog in 2 best selling books.
He recently shared a story of a young couple he photographed who met on Instagram. The woman shared the following:
“I’d been engaged recently. We broke it off in January. I was trying to make some changes in my life. I stopped wearing make-up for a few months to see what sort of things I’d notice if I stopped looking in the mirror so much.
I made a deal with myself that I wasn’t going to post any selfies for a while.
I was only going to photograph things that weren’t me. I started posting photos of nature, art, and my teacup collection.
That began to attract other people into my life who were interested in those things.
One night Chris sent me a message. It was a photo of a bridge he’d just taken. We went back and forth for a couple weeks, then decided to meet.”
I loved her story because in our selfie and fame obsessed society she found the paradox that she drew more people to her including her boyfriend when she stopped taking selfies and focused her camara and her life on things outside of herself. The same could be said of Brandon Staton, fame and success came to him when he began telling the stories of others.
This is not to say we should take no concern for our appearance. But, it should not be a focus of our lives or the basis of our self-esteem.
Sister Susan Tanner the General YW Pres in 2005 conference shared her feelings of struggling with self-esteem over her appearance as a teen.
She said her mother taught her a valuable lesson as she said over and over. “You must do everything you can to make your appearance pleasing, but the minute you walk out the door, forget yourself and start concentrating on others.”
Her mother knew that paradoxacle Chinese handcuff truth that humble acts of selflessness do more to garner friends and build self-esteem than spending every moment worrying about and working to perfect your look.
You see it isn’t that humble people think poorly of themselves, it is that they think of others instead of themselves. In a world where people are trying to “Find themselves” the counter intuitive truth that the Savior taught recorded in Matt 16:25 has often been rejected but still is true
“For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.”
The Savior is our supreme example of Humility. It is He who created the worlds and all that is in them, the great Jehovah of the Old Testament, our Elder Brother and our God who condescended without reservation to be born among men in a lowly stable manger. To live a life among mortals never seeking His own but continually seeking the Will of His Father and doing His Father’s work.
And it was our Savior, the very Son of God with power over the elements, the heavens and even death itself that after suffering for us in the Garden allowed mortal men to take him to that trial and eventually to that hill on Calvary.
Surely we would not call our Savior-- our perfect example of humility-- weak, powerless or lacking in self-esteem. We follow the example of the Saviors humility when we acknowledge our true standing before the Lord and choose to be submissive and selfless. In so doing, we demonstrate the true strength of self mastery and tap into heavenly empowerment waiting to lift us closer to our Heavenly Father.
During this week of Thanksgiving, I hope we can all reflect on the degree of gratitude we ought to feel everyday to that God who breath by breath gives us life. It is my prayer that our humble gratitude will help us to become more submissive and selfless and thus help each of us become more like our Savior. In the name of Jesus Christ Amen.