April 9, 2008

Humility vs. Arrogance: A Bit of Self Evaluation

13Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. 14But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. 15Such "wisdom" does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, of the devil. 16For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.

17But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. 18Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness.

-James 3:13-18

Before I explain the importance of this passage in my discussion, I should explain some background information on the subject. First of all, whether or not you believe in God and the truth of the Bible, I doubt anyone disagrees with this passage. It's pretty blunt, but contains a very powerful truth that I honestly think I needed to hear. The passage speaks of wisdom and humility, explaining what exactly it takes to be wise.

Now for a bit about me. Wisdom is my aspiration. There is honestly little more I seek in life then to be wise, to know things, and to be able to help and give advice to others. When people ask me questions, I absolutely love answering them. And when I don't know, I learn so I can answer them. Its hard to explain, but wisdom is just the source of satisfaction in my life. I want to know everything, I want to experience everything, and I want absolutely everyone to like me. Of course, I understand how impossible is that, but its still a dream of mine.

Just to clarify, I'm not an arrogant person at heart. Whether or not I come off that way I can't say, but I'm just not one to think myself better of others. Its usually pretty opposite, I think myself worse of others. I'm not sure exactly what it is..I suppose I have a competitive spirit but hate competition. I'd rather combine talents then try to use mine to beat out someone else's, because to an extent I fear failure. Everything I do well, I know someone who does it better. And I've always wanted to be the very best at one thing, not so I can brag and flaunt my talent but so I can feel confident in an area and strive to do something productive with that talent. Unfortunately, I can't say thats true, and it may never be true. I'll always know better wakeboarders, better writers, better computer engineers, wiser people.. its just the way life works. I can get over the rest but never being the wisest..thats a tough fate. I write to comfort, to inform, to spark thought, to force people to cast aside short-sighted thoughts and don the mind of a philosopher for even just a few seconds. I'm like an artist, but instead of finding beauty in pictures I paint or music I compose, I find beauty in people's minds I open. When people begin thinking outside of the box and coming up with their own thoughts and ideas independent of anyone else's, I become ecstatic.
Seems like a noble goal, right? I thought so..but this passage made me think about it a bit deeper. Wisdom without humility is nothing..how do I accomplish that? I mean, I try not to come off as arrogant.. I rarely judge people and never think myself better then someone. But can I say my aspiration of wisdom is completely humble? Maybe not.. Its honestly very hard to tell. I write more for others then for myself, is that arrogant? Trying to impress what I know upon others, to feel like I know something, to feel wise. Is that wrong of me? I would love honest answers or opinions to that question.
I mean, lets face the facts? Am I wise? I'd like to think I can give good advice, I'd like to think I can open people's minds a bit. But when it comes down to it, I know nothing. Everything I say or think is based on what I've seen or heard or experienced..I can never see everything. I can never experience everything. My knowledge alone will NEVER be enough, it will never carry itself. Its useless without others, thats the truth of this whole mess. I'm just a dot on a timeline, a single story over the span of 70 or so years that started at a seemingly random time and will end, and I will leave this world once again knowing nothing. Despite the hopelessness, I don't think true wisdom is impossible, its just..tricky. I think part of being truly wise is accepting that you really are nothing, and thats not something I can just decide to do. Its a life long goal, I suppose.
On that note, I'd like to ask for your help. Yes, anyone and everyone who reads this, you can help me. I don't care if I've never met you in my life. I need criticism. I need bluntness, I need people to tell me exactly what they don't like about me, exactly what I've done wrong, exactly what I don't seem to know..anything. Its hard to find people who will be that blunt, but I'm promising right now I will never think negatively of you or think you don't like me (Unless, of course, you actually don't like me.) I want a chance to say sorry for things I've done wrong to people, and I want a chance to fix the things holding me back. This isn't my way of getting ahead of the pack or being better then others, this is my way of exposing myself and making myself vulnerable. I will not defend or justify myself, I want true and sincere honesty. I think I'm finally realizing that being wise isn't about learning and knowing what you are, its about knowing and accepting what you aren't and seeing that potential in others. I'm not sure I'll ever be able to be wise without picking up a trace of arrogance, but what is life without a nigh unreachable goal to strive for? Wish me luck.


Kaitlyn T. said...

Heeyyyy, I read that passage with you!

Honestly I can say that this same passage opened my eyes too and I struggle with the same thing. The passage kinda reminds me of Ecclesiastes in general and how it talks about knowledge, honor, and vanity. I remember reading that one verse, I'm not sure where it is, you know the one that says, "The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom?" I'd heard it before, I suppose, just never quite that bluntly. I mean, the whole book basically tells you that everything you do is vain and you don't know anything if you don't know God. Cheery, huh? But anyway, it was a huge slap in the face for me and I honestly needed it. I took pride in too much of what I did, like pictures I drew and songs I sang, and not nearly enough of what God does for me, like sustaining a perfectly balanced universe so all of us here on earth can survive.

So I don't think true wisdom is knowing more about a subject than everyone else. From what James and Ecclesiastes are saying, the born-again drop out who knows Christ is wiser than the guy with a PhD in nuclear physics who has rejected Him. Saying that you're nothing seems somewhat nihilistic in that nothing you do during your 70 to 80 years on earth really matters. Maybe wisdom isn't exactly what you thought it was?

I love getting your advice. It really is awesome to hear your input on something and I value your opinion much higher than others. To get your perspective and try to see other sides of things can hurt or be hard, but also really cool and eye-opening. However, if you feel like you're doing so to make yourself feel wise, you might want to read Ecclesiastes 5...ooor the entire book. Heh.

You have a great mind and it seems like you have the best intentions at heart, even if you're not entirely sure you do.

I love you! Sorry that I rambled alot..

Kaitlyn T. said...

P.S. - The keyboard you gave me is crazy.

Aaron said...

Cody, i'm not exaggerating at all, but i actually teared up when i read that. Humility is something so beautiful, its what our God took on to make himself man. Its what that man took on to be humiliated and die. Its what David was filled with as king and stripped himself down and danced around the city streets when the ark (presence of the Lord) was arriving. I just saw a spark of something I've always prayed for and knew you would get eventually because I do know your heart. Nothing makes me happier than that. And yes, keep exploring this.

Anonymous said...

Delete the first response. I had to many mistakes. Here is the edited version:

Cody, you are wiser then you know. You asked a question how you know when you are wise or has wisdom. When others tell you that you are wise? As your awesome GF said it’s not knowledge that makes a person wise. I have met some very very wise people in my life and I know that I have more education, experienced more, traveled more, done more than them but they are wiser than me. So the question is what makes a person wise if knowledge doesn't play a huge role?

Being wise and having wisdom comes from the Lord. I Kings mentions wisdom 17 times, 2 Chor. mentions wisdom 10 times, and Proverbs mentions wisdom 46 times. With that said that is 73 times the word wisdom is attached to the wisest man to ever live which is King Solomon. I encourage you to read those books.

Also the Book of Job mentions wisdom 20 times as Job is trying to get a handle what is happening in his life and how to handle it.

James says chapter 1 verse 5 says "If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him." So ask for it and I believe you will receive. I am not God but I think that you are trying to live a life without fault.

I am proud of you. I know we don't have a deep relationship which is cool but you inspire me in so many ways and guess what, seeking wisdom is the new area that you have inspired me.