It is a humbling thing to own up to failure and sin. Pride resists admitting to wrong-doing. It defends and excuses it. When I act from my pride I not only do not love my family or those around me, but I do great damage to the relationship.
The Bible says, “…charity is not puffed up” (I Corinthians 13:4). The Corinthian church was filled with compromise and sin and they were very proud.
It was said of them, “…ye are puffed up, and have not rather mourned…” (I Corinthians 5:2). This was in the context of their toleration and excuse of immorality. Perhaps they were more focused on fitting in with the culture of their city than obeying God.
They were proud rather than broken over the condition of their church. The word “mourned” means to be grieved. If you would have attended this church the pride and egotism of the people would have been very evident. The one thing that is attractive to God – and to people – was missing. That quality is brokenness.
Pride affects our behavior and the way we view sin. In order to fit in with our surroundings and to make us look better to others we will excuse our behavior rather than being grieved over it.
Love also affects our behavior and the way we see our sin. Rather than being soft on ourselves about our sin we are grieved about it. Brokenness over your own sin makes you humble when dealing with sin in the lives of others.
However, if you are “puffed up” you will create havoc trying to straighten out other people. Pride gives one a wrong spirit (thinking we are superior) and causes us to become involved in a jurisdiction where we have no business making a judgment.
Humility gives you a spirit that is approachable and the realization that you are not better than anyone else even when you have to deal with a situation where someone has done wrong. This is how love behaves and how people feel loved.
Our tendency is to either harshly condemn sin or to compromise and excuse it. Someone said, “Love without truth is hypocrisy, but truth without love is brutality”. We need both love and truth.
Here’s a heart-searching question: have you ever been broken over your pride? Not the painful consequences of a sin, but the very motivation that caused you to do so in the first place. At the root of our sin is selfishness and pride. There is a major difference in being sorry for what we did and who we are and in being sorry we got caught.
Pride causes even a three year old to have a difficult time admitting wrong and apologizing. Fast forward twenty years and the child is now twenty-three years old and married – and still has a difficult time admitting when wrong and seeking forgiveness. Pride is devastating to our relationships.
Humility does the opposite. It builds relationships and makes them strong and deep. We all love people that are authentic and not trying to impress us. Broken people don’t do that because they know they have sinned, too, and have need of God’s grace. There’s not much to impress people with so why try?
It’s sad but almost all of us (I honestly believe all of us) have to experience failure or an overwhelming problem before we understand brokenness.
As I write this I’m in my mid-50’s and I can trace the times in my life when I have been broken. Each time was very painful, but it made me a better person. One of the results was that I am not as quick to judge someone without stopping to think about things. Pain gives a perspective like none other.
When I was in Bible college I heard a well-known evangelist speak in our chapel hour and he was an outstanding speaker. He was compelling, humorous, interesting and powerful. He was also arrogant. He told a few stories about his children and how he handled some situations and I can remember thinking, “I’m glad my father wasn’t like that; I wouldn’t want to have a dad that treated me that way. I really don’t like that preacher as a person very much”.
Two years later he returned to speak in chapel again. He had experienced a great trial in his life and had a broken heart. The difference was amazing. He wept almost the entire message. He was still interesting, helpful and powerful, but this time it wasn’t his persona that made him so, it was his brokenness.
He was not the only one that wept that day as he spoke. I did, too, and many others around me did. I was helped greatly by a man that was humble and meek rather than being dynamic, pushy, and loud.
After he finished speaking our chancellor, Dr. Roberson, stood before the audience and with tears streaming down his face said, “You have seen a miracle today; the difference in this man’s life is truly a miracle”. It was evident to everyone that God had done a work in his life that made his ministry more effective and deeper, but at great cost to him.
I never knew I would be a senior pastor. My heart was to always help a pastor and work with teenagers and families. In 1986 when I became the pastor of our church within a year I called this same preacher and asked him to speak for us. Initially I had rejected his ministry because of his pride, but now I wanted our folks to hear him. He has spoken for us on several occasions. Today I count him as a dear friend.
What made the difference? His spirit of being “puffed up” had changed to one of humility because of his brokenness. I love this dear man and he has been a blessing to me.
If I am to bless my wife and children then it will not be a result of my gifts or my personality, but because of my brokenness. Only then can I love them for “charity is not puffed up”.
Nancy Leigh DeMoss wrote, “Proud people focus on the failures of others and can readily point out those faults. Broken people are more conscious of their own spiritual need than of anyone else’s”.
One of the most simple, but expressive ways I have ever read about how brokenness enables us to love people is in a well-known story by Margery Williams called “The Velveteen Rabbit”. This brief excerpt always speaks to me about the beneficial result of pain in teaching us to genuinely love others.
For a long time he (the rabbit) lived in the toy cupboard or on the nursery floor, and no one thought very much about him. He was naturally shy, and being only made of velveteen, some of the more expensive toys quite snubbed him. The mechanical toys were very superior, and looked down upon every one else; they were full of modern ideas, and pretended they were real.
The model boat, who had lived through two seasons and lost most of his paint, caught the tone from them and never missed an opportunity of referring to his rigging in technical terms. The Rabbit could not claim to be a model of anything, for he didn’t know that real rabbits existed; he thought they were all stuffed with sawdust like himself, and he understood that sawdust was quite out-of-date and should never be mentioned in modern circles.
Even Timothy, the jointed wooden lion, who was made by the disabled soldiers, and should have had broader views, put on airs and pretended he was connected with Government. Between them all the poor little Rabbit was made to feel himself very insignificant and commonplace, and the only person who was kind to him at all was the Skin Horse.
The Skin Horse had lived longer in the nursery than any of the others. He was so old that his brown coat was bald in patches and showed the seams underneath, and most of the hairs in his tail had been pulled out to string bead necklaces.
He was wise, for he had seen a long succession of mechanical toys arrive to boast and swagger, and by-and-by break their mainsprings and pass away, and he knew that they were only toys, and would never turn into anything else. For nursery magic is very strange and wonderful, and only those playthings that are old and wise and experienced like the Skin Horse understand all about it.
“What is REAL?” asked the Rabbit one day, when they were lying side by side near the nursery fender, before Nana came to tidy the room. “Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?”
“Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.”
“Does it hurt?” asked the Rabbit.
“Sometimes,” said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. “When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.”
“Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,” he asked, “or bit by bit?”
“It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse. “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”