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  • Writer's pictureGreg Dover

Greg's Weekly Word: "humility"

I was shocked at how people reacted to my short video asking people to resume wearing masks indoors at church. Not because anyone was argumentative or mean, but because of their (positive) reaction to my use of the idea of humility.

My uncle - who lives in another part of the state and has never really been a churchy person - sent me a text after seeing the post:

I was positively struck by your use of the word 'humility'! A character [trait] that is so sorely missing in today's society.

(I can't take full credit, though. I was inspired by a recent article in which a scientist stated that the key to solving the mysteries of COVID is humility.)

You may have heard the saying that humility is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less. And that's catchy and quotable. But true humility is dirty.


The word itself comes from the Latin humus, which means "on the ground" or "earth," and even in English today refers to the decomposing organic matter that forms rich soil from which plants can grow.

If that's the case, then maybe humility can be found in the recognition that we were made from dust, and to dust we shall return (Gen 3:19). Or, put more directly, that we are beloved creatures formed of the earth, and not the Creator who formed that earth. We don't know it all... We don't even always know best! We don't have all the answers, and we could be wrong (and, if you're like me, often are!).

So perhaps we can cultivate humility by remembering - regularly and intentionally - that we are finite, imperfect beings, and one day we will return to the earth from which we were formed. But in the meantime, perhaps we can follow the Apostle Paul's poetic call to have "the mind of Christ," who

though he was in the form of God,

did not regard equality with God

as something to be exploited,

but emptied himself,

taking the form of a slave,

being born in human likeness.

And being found in human form,

he humbled himself

and became obedient to the point of death—

even death on a cross.

Maybe our humility can be the fertile ground from which self-giving service to others can grow. And maybe God can bring new life to our world through it.

I'll close with these selections from another poetic call to action, Wendell Berry's "Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front":

So, friends, every day do something

that won’t compute. Love the Lord.

Love the world. Work for nothing.

Take all that you have and be poor.

Love someone who does not deserve it...

Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.

Say that your main crop is the forest

that you did not plant,

that you will not live to harvest.

Say that the leaves are harvested

when they have rotted into the mold.

Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.

Put your faith in the two inches of humus

that will build under the trees

every thousand years...

Practice resurrection.


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