“Humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less.” (Rick Warren) This quote is from pastor and author Rick Warren’s 2002 book “The Purpose Driven Life.”
Thinking of yourself or about what something will mean to you is quite natural. How we perceive and react to the world around us is pretty much driven by the thought, “What does this mean for me?” That was certainly not what Rick Warren had in mind and I doubt that Warren had apathy in mind when he penned today’s quote.
Perhaps empathy is a good starting point to what Warren was pointing towards in his remark. However, given the focus on purpose that Warren took in his writings and his ministry, I suspect that there was implied action in Warren’s advice and not just empathy.
Thinking to yourself as you walk by a street beggar, “Oh that poor man. There, but for the grace of God, go I”, is one thing; but, stopping to help or perhaps just giving him/her a little something to help is completely different. Watching the news coverage of a natural disaster somewhere else and feeling bad for the people that you see in the story is most of the time accompanied by feelings of thankfulness that it did not happen where you live. Donating to help those people or donating your time to some relief effort is based upon thinking more of them and less about yourself.
We cannot turn off the natural instinct to think about ourselves and the impact that things might have on us; however, we can make a conscious effort to think more about others and the impact that our actions might have on them. We can turn our thoughts from “How do I get through this” (whatever it is) to thoughts of “How can I help others get through this” and turn those thoughts into actions.
We often see on the news shows stories about people who have been through some personal tragedy, such as the loss of a child to gun violence or drugs, starting a movement to stop or lessen the cause of their loss. Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) was one such movement. Those are movements and organizations started when someone thought more about others and how they might help others than about themselves.
Maybe the next time that you catch yourself being thankful that something didn’t happen to you, instead of just praying, “Thank you Lord for watching over me and protecting me from that bad thing”, you can go on to ask, “How can I help keep it from happening to someone else or help someone to whom it has already happened?”
Just getting yourself in the frame of mind to think less about yourself and more about others will often lead you to a course of action that will be helpful to others. You will be acting out of humility and acting out humility.
Think about it, and then act upon it…
Empathy has always been a favorite word and action/thought for me.