A few weeks ago, our house was flooded with packing boxes. A university friend stowed away everything on our book shelves, my mum and sister packed up our kitchen, a lady from church put it all away in the new house, and an industrious helper cleaned my bathroom and kitchen from top to bottom. Someone else cooked us a much appreciated meal.
All these things I should have been doing, but instead I was sitting on a couch, or lying on a bed, or simply watching and directing a little bit. Being 38 weeks pregnant does that to you.
When DIY isn't an option
I'm normally a pretty active person. I enjoy keeping my house clean and organised, and I take particular pleasure in a well-scrubbed floor. Weird, I know. Yet here I was, doing nothing. All this inactivity was pretty challenging, just watching as other people worked tirelessly.
However, it did give me time to ponder why exactly I found it hard having so many wonderful women do my housework for me. A big clue was that I was thinking about myself. I should be doing this. I feel so lazy. I hate sitting around. Me, me, me. There is a very good word for having "I" at the centre of everything: pride.
Pride makes it really hard to accept help from other people. We get wrapped up in our individual worlds, believing the lie that we are self-sufficient and don't need anyone else's help. But then comes the day when we actually really do need help. Not just some assistance, but a total "please move my house for me while I sit on a couch" kind of help. What now?
There are two options. The first is to wallow in our own pride and self-pity. I suspect this makes us a rather cumbersome and difficult person to help. I didn't want to settle for this option so I considered the second choice: respond in humility.
A recipe for humble pie
Humility is a rather tricky concept to pin down. So often it is simply represented as not pride. Which helps a little, but not much. Lots of things are not pride. This idea gives us little direction as to how to achieve humility.
So then, does it look like belittling ourselves to make others feel better? I doubt it. Humility is not to be confused with a negative self-image. This manner of "humility" is unhelpful because it is still self-focused.
C.S Lewis puts it well when he described a humble man. "He will not be thinking about humility: he will not be thinking about himself at all" (Mere Christianity). Here at last is a true humility that can be realistically applied to life. Of course, learning humility is a life-long process, but at least there are some steps to take that lead us down the right road.
Accept help when it is needed. Physically, there is no way I could have moved all those boxes or scrubbed out my cupboards. I needed help, people offered help, and I gladly accepted it, because I wasn't thinking about myself but the simple fact that the job needed to be done.
We can get this far, but then pride comes creeping back into our attitudes, as it did with mine. Again, the route to humility is to stop thinking about ourselves. Foster an attitude of thankfulness.
What thankfulness looks like
For me, I was thankful for the amazing people that gave up their time to pack and clean. It's pretty easy to find things to be thankful for once you look. I knew I could be thankful that we had a house to move to, that I was having a baby, and that I was normally able to clean my own house; I could go on.
Good attitudes are better cemented if we act on them. That is why my last suggestion for cultivating humility is to sincerely communicate your thankfulness. This isn't about "paying back" for the help. That would only be a one-upping exercise that cycles right back around to pride. No, it is simply about recognising those who helped. Say it out loud. Write a note. Send a card.
The battle against pride is not easily won, nor the path to humility easily traversed. However, worthwhile things are rarely gained easily. Humility is a very worthwhile virtue. It brings us closer to God and to our fellow man. Take steps toward humility, relieving yourself of the stranglehold of pride.
It is, in the words of C.S Lewis, "like a drink of cold water to a man in a desert".
Lucinda is married to Simon. They are about to have their first child. Lucinda enjoys watching tennis, playing violin, and doing various half-finished sewing projects.
Lucinda Glover's previous articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/lucinda-glover.html