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THE LENS OF HUMILITY


When you are sparring with weapons, the whole world can shrink to the size of a knife tip. Either you are focusing on your blunt weapon tip and how you want to poke your opponent with it, or you are focusing on your precious little ribs and neck and how you really don't want your opponents (blunt) knife tip to end up there.

(Okay, so I do some fairly intense martial arts.)


Here's the thing: if all you can see is one knife-tip, you are blind. If all you can see is a knife tip, you can't see how the opponent's knee is sticking out where you could nudge it to tip him over, or the rolling soda can underfoot that could trip you, or the opponent's friend creeping up behind your back to attack you.



The famous Japanese sword master Yagyu Munenori was once asked what was most important in a sword fight. He said simply, “Hear the sound of the wind and water”.

If you are willing to let go of your white-knuckle fixation on your sword and the opponent's sword, if you are willing to open up and look at everything (even the breeze, even the sound of the stream in the background), then at last you have a clear, calm picture – and you can fight.

But that clear, calm picture is so hard to get in this life.

So often in our lives, we are just like a fighter in crisis: the only thing we really see or pay attention to is a tiny part of the picture – our own selves.

Our own desires and issues and shortcomings and feelings and abilities sit in front of our mental gaze in a huge tangled lump. Like a knife tip in a fight, we stop seeing anything else. It's silly, isn't it? Sometimes we catch little glimpses of things around the giant Lump of Self – hints of what other people are thinking or feeling, little snatches of issues that have nothing to do with ourselves, bits of motion as things happen that don't involve us in the slightest.

But mostly humans are born fixated on themselves, and that means that humans are born blind.

This intense mental fixation on ourselves has a name: Pride.

Pride is self-obsession. Pride is when everything, in some twisted way, is somehow about you. Maybe pride is about how you are so cool and right and vindicated, or maybe it's about how you are so vulnerable and your needs are so much more important than anything else, or maybe it's about how you are horrible and arrogant and selfish and lazy. Whichever way it takes us, pride makes us unable to focus on anything beyond our little selves. It's a distorted lens, that only lets you see things around yourself and through yourself.

And there's such a big world out there to see! There are other people with their own worries and joys and opinions (and it's shocking how rarely other people actually think about me for more than a second.) There are big things happening in the world. And pretty sunsets. And animals.

If only we can stop ogling at or glaring at ourselves. If only we can fix our eyes and our attention somewhere else.

In middle school, I realized I was proud. So I came up with this …. uh.... 'brilliant' plan to fix it: I would hate on myself until I realized what an awful person I was and started being humble. So I started mentally pointing out to myself every time I did something wrong. I would tell myself how arrogant I was, how uncaring, how lazy, how greedy.

I'd never focused on myself so much in my whole life. The whole world had become all about me. And suddenly I couldn't feel the spirit anymore. And I was miserable.

That's wasn't humility. And it cut me off from the Lord.

Rick Warren once said, “Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it is thinking of yourself less.”

So it hurts to see perfectly wonderful people trying to scold and name-call themselves into a case of humility. It doesn't work, anyway. Humility is the Lord's way of seeing people and things. Humility is love.

As Evelyn Underhill once said, “Every minute you are thinking of evil, you might have been thinking of good instead. Refuse to pander to a morbid interest in your own misdeeds. Pick yourself up, be sorry, shake yourself, and go on again.”

A few years later, in high school, I asked my father to explain to me exactly what humility was. He thought for a moment and then told me something I would never forget; “In this life, there are a lot of people that we think are less than we are: less smart, less gifted, less spiritual. And there are a lot of people that we think are more than we are; smarter, more gifted, more spiritual. If we look at those we think are below us we will drown in pride. But if we look at those we think are above us, we will despair. The only safe thing to do is to not compare at all, but just keep our eyes on Christ. He is the only safe place for us to look. Humility is what happens when you think of Christ instead of about yourself.”

Letting go of self-obsession doesn't mean that you lose the ability to tell what is going on inside you. It doesn't mean that you suddenly forget your intimate knowledge of your own strengths and weaknesses. On the contrary, you become more fully aware, since this sensitivity to your own self does not come padded with justification, smugness, worry, anger, excitement, desperation, shame, or any other distorting, self-protecting emotional packing-foam.

C.S. Lewis described humility as “... a state of mind in which he could design the best cathedral in the world, and know it to be the best, and rejoice in the fact, without being any more (or less) or otherwise glad at having done it than he would be if it had been done by another. [God] wants him, in the end, to be so free from any bias in his own favor that he can rejoice in his own talents as frankly and gratefully as in his neighbor's talents--or in a sunrise, an elephant, or a waterfall. He wants each man, in the long run, to be able to recognize all creatures (even himself) as glorious and excellent things.”



So try being nice to yourself. Remember – the Lord loves you, and you want to see people the way he does. Every once in a while, pay yourself a sincere compliment.


You would be in good company.


*Nephi humbly mentioned that God had given him great stature and shown him things too great for the sight of man.


*Joseph Smith got accused of arrogance all the time when he told people he was the chosen of God to restore the fullness of the gospel to the world, and the current mortal priesthood authority – but he said it with humility.


*Moroni humbly said that he was mighty in speaking.


*The Savior said in plain humility that He was the light and life of the world.


So go ahead...the truth isn’t always arrogance. You are just as entitled to notice the good things about yourself as you are the bad. Work on noticing what is good and brave and beautiful about yourself. You’ll get better with practice. As long as you don’t obsess over either the good or the bad, you should be just fine.

Real humility means that really and truly most things in your life are not about you. They are about the situation, or about someone else, and most of the time they are in some way about the Savior. Real humility is joyful immersion in the world around you as you begin to see things the way the Savior sees them.

Look to the Lord, and marvel at how clearly you can see everything else.

He is the light of the world. Fix the eyes of your heart on him, and everything else becomes illuminated.  


Article written by Anne Beardsley


Most of my story is very normal: raised up and down the east coast of the United States, served a mission in Italy, met and married an amazing man while at BYU (we were both physics majors, so obviously we met in the Storytelling Club), and together had four delightful children. I'm living the dream as a stay-at-home mom.

It's the hobbies that get a little unusual. I practice four different martial arts, from genteel Japanese mediation archery to hardcore Russian Systema. Sometimes I even teach classic Japanese swordwork. (Pro tip: life is more fun when you have a sword).

I also really, really love the book of Isaiah. It's the most condensed and profound sermon on the atonement that I have ever seen. I taught a neighborhood class about Isaiah that ran for over a year, and am writing a commentary on it. It's a deep and tender book.

When I get a chance, I also write fiction.The gospel is the best thing in my life – and the reason why everything else matters. If the Earth is a beautiful and magical place full of things to love, then the gospel of Jesus Christ is like the sun: it lights the world, holds it in orbit, makes life on Earth possible, and makes everything bloom and grow. - Anne