Friday, August 31, 2012

Part of Wisdom is Humility: Sirach 7:4-5

Today I want to reflect briefly on verses that I was inspired to explore by the pace that I almost always seem to end up running when I out with a certain set of friends. The pace, a relatively quick one (at least for what is labeled as a "long, slow distance run")--7:45 per mile. The verses are from Sirach (from the Apocrypha) chapter 7, verses 4 and 5.

What are these verses:
Do not seek from God authority or from the king a place of honor.
Do not parade your righteousness before the LORD, and before the king do not flaunt your wisdom.
The two verses provide four simple reminders against pride.

In some ways, it is good for me to tie these to the fact that I run a little more quickly than maybe I should some weeks.  Some may wonder--in fact, sometimes even I wonder--whether I am doing it for pride.  Am I running at that pace to show how I can keep up with others?  Am I running at that pace to show that I am as good as or better than others?  Or, am I running that pace just because it is the pace at which I feel comfortable running with friends while I am not out to prove anything?  Am I running at a pace to show that what God has given me is somehow better than others or am I running at a pace that celebrates what God has given me along with recognizing what others have, wherever each person might believe their abilities come from.  I know what the preferred answer is and I try to live that out.  And f course, pride is not only about running.  

Teaching Sunday school?  I have no preconception that I know my religion better than most or am more faithful to God or an more perfect religiously than others.  I am simply a person who is willing to share my time and my effort with the children of my parish so that we all can learn something.

Playing in the worship band?   I have no illusions that I am a great musician.  Again, just someone who enjoys playing.  I enjoy sharing my gift so that others may connect with God in a way that they find useful.  

My career success?  I won't deny that there have been times when I have let pride in.  I won't say that I should not value my accomplishments.  But at the end of the day, I work very hard not to let it go to my head as pride.  I am an imperfect colleague and mentor in so many ways.  And my career should be about using my gifts to help others (through public health in general, through the products of my research, through my teaching and advising) by sharing ideas and allowing others to give them consideration rather than by imposing my will on others.

My time in the kitchen?  Doesn't make me better than anyone else.  My family needs food.  I have shared kitchen work with my wife and kids.  I have taught my kids.  But it doesn't make me any better than anyone else.  Again, I can value and share the fact that I love to bake without pride that makes me an unbearable person to deal with.  (At least I hope so.)

My place in my family as a father and husband?  Again, I have to recognize that is it not about my pride.  I try to behave in ways that show that family is not about me only.  I know that intellectually.  It is easy enough to write.  Acting that way is not always easy.  

The two verses thus provide me with reminders of the importance of humility and the downfalls of pride for having positive relationships with others.  Reminders that I should attempt to use my success to build up and encourage others rather than make others feel  uncomfortable or put off.  It never ceases to amaze me how much wisdom we can find in the ancient texts.  How that wisdom still applies today.  And how I can connect to it through my running and other aspects of my day to day life in ways that I never appreciated sitting through mass and CCD as a kid.  

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