One thing I’ve noticed about people who are mature Christians with a strong trait of humility is that they have a healthy image of themselves. It isn’t that they see themselves as worthless or damaged. Instead they have a positive view of themselves and those around them. Being humble actually creates a positive self-esteem because one sees himself/herself as being in relationship with the world; and an important part of that relationship.
One author (which I wish I could remember who it was) said that the opposite of humility is not pride; it’s isolation. A person who is humble sees the people and the universe around themselves as connected. A humble person knows that God values every part of the world around them and knows they are connected to all that they see. A person who is full of pride sees everything else as “other” as something either to be possessed or consumed; or possibly as a threat. Pride causes a person to reduce people to “things” and to reduce relationships to means to obtain what is wanted.
If this is true then the true cost of unhealthy pride is not being a “bad person” as much as being a lonely, anxious, and isolated person. Humility becomes the means by which we learn the methods and mannerisms that will create healthy and joyful relationships. Instead of being “users” humility enables us to be friends.
When we talk about dirty jobs then, we are not talking about the dirt as much as the process of emotionally and spiritually developing the humility we need for new and challenging experiences. It is as one caregiver described after years of caring for a family member: “The hard part isn’t doing the work; the hard part is becoming the person who can do the work.” There are dirty jobs that involve no dirt whatsoever. My most recent truly dirty job has been to spend long periods on hold dealing with insurance (and really, from what ring of hell does the programming come from that breaks into the awful hold “music” to tell you that you should go to the website to get solutions? Do they honestly think I haven’t already tried that?!) The dirtiest part of the job is to remember that the person who does finally come onto the line is a human created in the image of God. And my guess is that the fact that she is in that occupation kind of infers that her career path hasn’t gone as well as she might have hoped. I’m not judging but at the high-school career fair, the line in front of the booth marked “telephone insurance claim representative” tends to be pretty short. Instead of making this person the target of all of the frustrations humility calls us to seek a more peaceful solution (and to save our hostility for the telemarketers who call during dinner – okay maybe that’s not right either).
So we are seeking to grow in this healthy humility together. By being in community we are able to build up the traits and strengths that create joyful, mature Christians that practice humility even in those situations that are most trying for us. It’s a dirty job, but working together we can do it.