Friends, over the last year or so, I have become completely enamored with the idea of faith, mainly because of the great teachings I have been exposed to in my Lutheran studies. I have recently adopted a favorite saying that I keep sharing whenever I get a chance to mentor youth. “Faith is a superpower.” That’s because it allows us to possess a very different character and to do things that others cannot do.
This has come in very handy as I invest in mentoring my son. I have a teenage boy, and I am shocked by how much things change when kids enter their teen years. All of a sudden, there is a new sense of freedom, pride, and testing of the will. For me, this means parenting has shifted away from mere performance and much more into character and faith-building. I have come to learn that character undergirds performance, and faith undergirds character. When behavior gets off the rails, you need to dig deeper to get to the heart of things.
One theme that keeps coming up over and over again is pride versus humility. This should be no surprise. As the saying goes, “Like father, like son.” Sometimes it seems like my whole life story is just one continuous battle with personal pride.
Humility is the opposite of pride. Faith is a prerequisite for humility. I have come to learn that faith is the only thing that permits us to be humble. Consider this:
In faith, we know we are sinners, and that Christ forgives our sin.
In faith, we are justified and have been given a promise that we will inherit eternal life with our Lord Jesus.
Finally, if we believe this, then we should know that nothing can truly do us harm. Faith should make us incredibly courageous, while also simultaneously humble.
For example, look at the issue of personal criticism. Here is how it normally works:
When a brother or sister confronts you about your flaws, your natural tendency is to say, “That’s not true!” We do this because this criticism points out something deeply unpleasant about ourselves. Mainly that we are not perfect. We are sinners. This is a hard truth to swallow. Nobody wants to be taken down a peg, and nobody normally wants to admit they sin, because we know in our hearts that there are eternal consequences for this. So instead, the flesh, out of self-preservation, kicks in and insists: “This is not true. You are wrong!”
But this is how personal criticism works differently in faith:
If someone calls me a sinner, the only correct answer according to Scripture is, “That is absolutely true!” It’s also true that you have been given a promise. Your sins are forgiven—past, present and future. This means it no longer condemns you, and you are no longer in danger. If you are no longer in danger, then there is no reason to fear someone’s criticism. Your forgiveness holds true, even if the criticism stems from a harmful motivation. So, this criticism cannot harm you. But it can benefit you. In the “spirit,” you are now able to learn and grow from the nugget of truth that may exist in this criticism. In turn, you can respond with gentle love, confession and gratitude.
In faith-driven humility, all criticism becomes a loving opportunity to grow and connect. This is especially true and valuable for anyone serving in a leadership role. As a leader, this humility lets you exchange important feedback with others on your team. It also allows you to give recognition and appreciation to your team without the need to hoard it for yourself. Your team will appreciate the openness and candor and will grow as a result. You will also grow as a leader while others learn they can help you see the blind spots that afflict every leader.
So here is a final tip for getting started. Before you meet with someone on your team, spend a moment in prayer, especially remembering God’s promises for you. Then meet with your team members and ask them, “Tell me something I don’t want to hear.”
Enjoy the growth that comes from the humble and honest answer.