Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought - Romans 12:3
Once, I was in a crowded grocery store, edging my way toward the checkout in a game of social checkers, when a couple slid in ahead of me. It was a sly move, almost cutting. I heard the man say in a surly whisper to the lady (who had the courtesy to be a little embarrassed): “What? He’s no better than us!”
I’m not. But it’s easy to forget this, because if you’re anything like me, you probably tell a story about yourself in which you’re better.
I make better decisions. Or at least, I don’t make bad decisions like those people over there–like those people who are (fill in the blank): up to their eyeballs in sex, drugs, and rock and roll, or whatever it is that qualifies them for the bottom. We invent this sliding scale in our minds. Of course, we’re smart enough not to put ourselves right at the top. I mean, we’re not perfect or anything. But there’s plenty of people below us. We’re jealous and judgmental and greedy–but hey, we’ve never killed anybody. Because we’re better.
We’re sophisticated and we’re aware of white privilege. We eat kale by the bushel. Because we’re better.
We work hard and don’t depend on the government and we have the pioneer spirit. Because we’re better.
We voted for the right candidate, and they didn’t. Because we’re better.
But it’s time to stop comparing. We’re going to have to go through a better detox program, 12 steps to clean of better, flush the better out of our system. We have to sober up. The only thing that replaces better is humility, a horse-pill dose of Philippians 2:3: “regard others as better than yourselves.”
Here’s a suggestion: I wonder if in humility, we can ask what it would look like to truly care about each other’s concerns. How can we live into the humble traits that make friendship possible and rich: abiding, listening, vulnerability, caring, and sharing life as equals? Perhaps the one thing needful is a sense that the convictions of others are as important as my own.
After all, I’m no better.