Humility and Humiliation

  • Sept. 26, 2017
  • #9237

True humility gives us freedom to think about others, rather than always thinking about ourselves.

Tea Party

Hi, I’m Joni Eareckson Tada and yes, it’s happened to me.

And I bet it has never happened to you. Recently, I was at a lady’s luncheon with a couple of new friends. The table was set beautifully: linen and china and delicate little teacups, tiny egg-salad sandwiches, beautifully decorated ladyfingers. And after we blessed the food and got started, I asked one of the women (now remember she’s new to me) to place the napkin on my lap and to insert my bent spoon, just so, into my arm splint (I'm very practiced at telling new people specifically how to do this, and my new friend got it right on the first try. I was relieved). I was especially grateful that the tea sandwiches were so small. That meant I could fit one easily on my bent spoon and take it in virtually one bite by myself. So far, so good! My new friends did not feel awkward about my disability, and the one to my right was happy to occasionally give me sips of tea. “Now,” she’d say, “tell me if I'm not doing this right,” betraying a hint of nervousness in her voice. But I would reply, “Oh don’t worry, you’re doing great.” Happy that her hands weren’t shaking and no tea spilt from the cup.

This luncheon was going great. I was feeling just fine in this unusual setting with new friends. But in the middle of our conversation, I began to feel my nose run. I quietly sniffed (did this several times), but after a minute or two, I could do nothing to stop the dripping that now wet the bottom of my nostrils. No doubt about it, my nose was running—seriously running. I knew this would take some quick thinking, and so I looked for the nearest mother. If there’s anyone who can manage someone else’s drippy nose, it’s a mother, right? Now, I knew the woman to my right never had children, and so I looked at the mother to my left and said with a smile, “I need a mother right now, someone who is really, really experienced at wiping a runny nose. Would you mind getting a tissue and helping me with that?”

Well, everyone had a good laugh, and I think that woman felt honored that her skills as a mother had been called upon. When she held the Kleenex to my nose a bit hesitantly. I said, “What was your child’s name?” “Jessica,” she smiled, wondering why I should ask at a moment like this. So I said, “Just grab my nose as you would Jessica’s and you got to wipe hard!” It was all the instruction she needed and a nose-wipe or two later, I was fine.

I tell you all this because there was a day a problem like that would have humiliated me. I would have thought of no one but myself and my embarrassment and my awkwardness. Humiliation like that is born of the ego; humility, however, is born of the Spirit. Pride makes us artificial, but humility makes us real. It is the freedom to think of others, and do so in a creative way because you know what? I believe the mother who helped me that day went away feeling very good for having helped someone who is helpless and for having met a very practical need. C.S. Lewis once said, “Humility is not thinking less of yourself; it's thinking of yourself less.” Isn’t that so true! For we learn humility through accepting humiliations in a good spirit.

So the next time you find yourself in an embarrassing, awkward situation, remember that where the Spirit of the Lord Jesus is, there is always freedom. Friend, you are free to think of others. Friend, you’re free to be creative, and while you’re at it, you are free to discover humility. Hey friend, at Joni and Friends we’d like to pray for you. So share with us your thoughts and your prayer needs at

© Joni and Friends


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