Cheryl and I have dealt with a handful of salespeople over the past few weeks and yes, I agree, no one should ever have to be subjected to that. I’m sure you’re expecting me to share a horror story of a smiling, smarmy salesperson who uses cologne/perfume by the keg, and who tries to up-sell everything in the store to this innocent, mature couple who just walked in.
Oh, you’d like that, wouldn’t you?
Turns out there was a variety of salespeople: some of them pleasant and professional, others oily and predatory, still others plastic-faced and unhearing.
Then there was Bob. Okay, his name is Robert but we can call him Bob.
Bob was pleasant, got to know us through natural conversation, casually shared pieces of his life, and gave precise, professional information for every question we had. Bob listened for what we wanted, provided the best price he could, remained constantly available to help us. Bob didn’t waste our time with him but rather seemed to value it.
We liked Bob; trusted Bob. Bob had what we wanted. Bob had corporate pricing.
We bought from Bob.
Why would our interaction with a salesperson even fall on the pages of this blog? Well, because somehow Bob distinguished himself as pleasant, caring and human, that’s why. He wasn’t wrapped up in what he needed to say or what he could get from us. He was just Bob.
I’ve been thinking quite a bit lately about the common human trait of pride which seems to habitually subtract from the world around it. I’ve been thinking too about its opposite, life-giving attribute that we call humility.
Somehow narcissism and pride have become acceptable, even desirable sins in today’s self-centred world (pride is one of the seven deadly ones, remember). We accept and encourage professional athletes, Hollywood actors and politicians to show us their inflated egos. We do this culturally by fawning over them, following them in the media, begging for their autographs, over-paying them – spending our precious time watching them.
Not to pick on him, but Donald Trump is an obvious study when we consider the place of pride and its acceptance in culture. His words and body language shout ‘look at me’ in the most simplistic ways. His public comments inevitably elevate himself and deflate someone else no matter what the topic is. Howard Stern recently shared some of his observations from the guest appearances Trump has made on his show and it was obvious to him that Trump craved compliments and attention more than anything else. Simply referring to him as ‘Mr. Trump’ would cause a visible change in his demeanor.
These personalities are usually noticeable and loud and have their own following but, in the end, they don’t produce strength, confidence, thought, opinion or creativity in others.
You know those digital, radar signs that sit beside the road and flash the numbers of ‘YOUR SPEED’? (Pretty sure they’re all broken – they seem skewed toward higher numbers.)
But why? They’re simply standing there, telling you what they see, pretending to protect people in the area, so why do you find them so exasperating?
I think I know.
We hate them because they judge us with cold information. They see us with their own eyes and from their own perspective. They don’t listen to us: if we agree with them, they are right; if we disagree with them, they are still right. They don’t feel, don’t consider who we are, they only broadcast what they think.
I wrote in a recent blog that virtually every person who has made a difference in my life has been humble and human. Isn’t that it? Humble and human. People who are able to marry grace and patience with their raw information are more able to be humble.
Humility doesn’t mean you are without an opinion. Humble doesn’t mean you surrender your will and it doesn’t mean you won’t stand up for what is right.
What humility does mean is that you know yourself and your place in the world. Humble means you accept that you are not in control of every event or opinion. Humble means you don’t have to win because you’re already a winner, you don’t need to impress because you’re already impressive, you don’t have to prove to us what you think because you are open to other thoughts.
Humility should be a natural response to our smallness in the universe which is then balanced with the experience that God knows us and loves us personally and unconditionally.
The author of today’s reading just feels like someone who is humble. There is no frenzied shouting or time spent saying ‘look at me, I’m right’ but instead there is just shared wisdom. Kinda like Bob.
The writer shares ‘with confidence’ but reminds us that it is the Lord who is our helper. We should humbly submit to the humble example of Jesus. We are not to look at the ego or charisma of our spiritual leaders but rather to those who show themselves to be shepherds. ‘Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith.’
The result is that we have a beautiful passage that is filled with practical verses so full and life-giving that they are often quoted individually.
I invite you to read and consider the passage slowly, carefully, prayerfully.
Keep on loving one another as brothers and sisters. Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it. Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.
Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral. Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said,
“Never will I leave you;
never will I forsake you.”
So we say with confidence,
“The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid.
What can mere mortals do to me?”
Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.
Do not be carried away by all kinds of strange teachings. It is good for our hearts to be strengthened by grace, not by eating ceremonial foods, which is of no benefit to those who do so. We have an altar from which those who minister at the tabernacle have no right to eat.
. . . Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that openly profess his name. And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.
Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account. Do this so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no benefit to you.
Pray for us. We are sure that we have a clear conscience and desire to live honorably in every way. I particularly urge you to pray so that I may be restored to you soon. – Hebrews 13: 1-10; 15-21 (NLT)
We recently stayed for a few nights with Cheryl’s oldest brother and his wife. Near their home is one of those confounded radar ‘YOUR SPEED’ signs but this one was different. If you were driving at or below the speed limit, it didn’t just blare out the raw numbers – it would instead flash a green happy face (pictured at the right)!
In other words, it communicated humbly and politely. The result was that I drove more slowly and it was amazing how that simple, green smile motivated me to be more calm and careful. I literally looked forward to its encouragement and approval as I drove past!
I don’t honestly know what other faces it could broadcast because the only one I ever got or wanted was the green one…
What I do know is that the mere presence of that humble, encouraging, happy face influenced me way beyond what shouting numbers ever has.
I think there is a lesson in that for us.
Benediction from the end of Hebrews
Now may the God of peace—
who brought up from the dead our Lord Jesus,
the great Shepherd of the sheep,
and ratified an eternal covenant with his blood—
may he equip you with all you need
for doing his will.
May he produce in you,
through the power of Jesus Christ,
every good thing that is pleasing to him.
All glory to him forever and ever! Amen.