“I tell you that this man … went home justified before God. For all those who … humble themselves will be exalted.”
Luke 18: 14 (New International Version)
Exalt means held in high regard. Good when this high regard is by others, problematic when this high regard is about ourselves. In this passage, Jesus is pointing out that proper self-awareness contains a dollop of humility.
Honest humility is an endearing quality in our interaction with others. An honest humility, backed up by a true and honest self-assessment of strengths and weaknesses, is a positive human characteristic. In contrast, few take pleasure in being in the company of those who are compelled to be the smartest person in the room: wearying. This is hubris, a word of Greek origin.
Hubris “came to be defined as overweening presumption that leads a person to disregard the divinely fixed limits on human action in an ordered cosmos.” Some of that bothers me, but overall, it resonates. My take is the disregard of who we really are. When acting in a state of hubris, we are fakes, charlatans, or to put a twist on Shakespeare “a poor player, that struts and frets his hour upon the stage, and then is heard no more.”
Humility and hubris are opposites. To balance humility and hubris requires excellent emotional intelligence and a high self-awareness.
Hubris is a character flaw, but too much humility can also be a flaw. What about those for whom it isn’t honest humility, but rather an unconscious inability to see ourselves as worthy, successful, fun, and all of the things that help lead to a well rounded soul?
Self doubt eats at our very core and saps us of the strength for living life abundantly.
Carl Jung, the noted Swiss psychiatrist, once wrote: “Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.”
I love baseball. Former major leaguer Manny Ramirez provides an excellent example of the unconscious staying unconscious. Manny was a great hitter but less than thoughtful in the thinking elements of the game. His Hall of Fame manager Joe Torre was once asked why Manny did something less than helpful, and Joe said “it’s just Manny being Manny.” Some would say it was Manny’s fate to live in a world of self-absorption. Maybe because he could hit a baseball an incredible distance on a regular basis but not understand other elements of the game, Manny possessed what was arguably low self-awareness. He had hubris as it related to his hitting prowess, but a profound lack of honest humility in how all of that fit together to make him a complete player in all phases of the game.
Our walk, in community, with Jesus is at least in part so that we can be complete players in all phases of the game of life. Jung would suggest this means we conduct an honest inventory of who we are. This can be tricky because, in the words of David Foster Wallace, “the most obvious, ubiquitous, important realities are often the ones that are hardest to see and talk about.”
Jesus would suggest a proper self-awareness contains a dollop of humility, the type that is healthy and interested in growth. The commendation is not to beat ourselves up over our failures, but rather to quietly assess and inventory who we are. This is done in healthy conversation with those we trust and love, on long walks alone in the creation, and a thousand other approaches to be appropriately alone or with others for the purpose of growth.