Thinking back through my time in the military, it’s a lot easier to remember folks with huge egos than it is to recall men and women who consistently displayed a genuine sense of humility. The ultimate example of arrogance I witnessed was a colonel who told a group of young officers that he was so close to being promoted to brigadier general he could taste it. He retired about three years later as a colonel. Rumor had it that he was a bit too full of himself in the presence of more senior officers, who derailed any chance he had for promotion.
In the competitive environment in which we serve, our objective can become, in the words of an old book title, looking out for number one. As long as we climb to the top of the pile, it matters little who achieves a place below us. And if we step on someone else on our way up, well, that’s just how it goes.
Setting Our Egos Aside
Our bosses certainly expect their subordinates to demonstrate a zeal for being the best; after all, that’s how they attained their lofty positions. But Christians are called upon to afford others deferential treatment. In fact, we should actually help others to succeed before we worry about our own interests.
The dictionary defines humility as the absence of pride, an awareness of one’s shortcomings. In a Christian sense, it’s thinking of ourselves no more highly than we ought to think, a freedom from vanity that grows out of recognizing all we have and all we are comes from God.
Moses’ response when God gave him a tough job illustrates the humility we should possess. When the Lord told Moses to ask the Pharaoh to release the Jews from captivity in Egypt, the prophet replied that he was too insignificant for such a task. While some might attribute this response more to self-preservation than humility, the Bible tells us Moses was the most humble man on Earth. He knew his shortcomings but took on the dangerous mission when God promised to be with him.
Naaman demonstrated humility when he obeyed Elisha’s instruction to complete a seemingly silly task in order to be healed of leprosy. Initially furious with the prophet’s order to wash in the Jordan River seven times, the captain of the Aramite army eventually set aside his high rank and sense of importance, and the Lord provided healing.
Jesus humbled Himself first by taking on the form of a human servant and then by obeying when His Father told Him to give up His life on the cross. Apostle Paul explains that though Christ was rich, He became poor for our sake so that, through His poverty, we might become rich.
As we carry out our military duties, we’d do well to remember the question John Wesley asked of the members of his Christian club in Oxford almost 300 years ago: Am I unconsciously or consciously creating the impression that I’m better than I really am? If the answer is yes, it’s time to make a concerted effort to replace our pride with a hefty dose of humility.Reflection: Is it possible to be humble in the workplace, or would this quality result in “losing points” in the view of your boss? How can we more honestly assess our contributions and our shortcomings? How do you feel as your colleagues receive praise while your efforts go unrecognized? Are you willing to help your co-workers gain the approval of the boss?
Series: A Christian’s View of Work in the Military: