Finally, all of you, have unity of spirit, sympathy, love for one another, a tender heart, and a humble mind. Do not repay evil for evil or abuse for abuse; but, on the contrary, repay with a blessing. It is for this that you were called—that you might inherit a blessing. – 1 Peter 3:8-9
What, exactly, is a humble mind? When I was a child I learned not to put myself forward or crow about my accomplishments, not to claim more than my fair share, and where there was scarcity to take even less than I needed. I learned to celebrate others’ successes, to hold back in competitions, to think about the family and the community before myself. This was being humble. It was good for me in some ways, but it kept me from developing in others. To be an artist one has to be selfish, claim what one needs, demand attention and support.
And a “humble mind” seems a little different anyway. These days I think of it as an open perspective, willing to meet the stranger and learn from him or her, willing to make mistakes and apologize for doing so. Willing to throw one’s lot in with one’s neighbor.
A few months ago I had a very unsettling conversation with a woman who phoned me, unsolicited, to ask if her company could provide me with a home security system. “Your neighbors know when you are home and when you are gone,” she said. “They could steal your valuables or your identity.”
“I know my neighbors,” I replied, “and they are my security system. We look out for one another, help each other out.”
“That’s not very wise,” she informed me sternly. “They don’t owe you anything; they could turn on you at any time.”
Obviously she does not know my neighbors.
It seems to me that if we take seriously that we are loved by and belong to God, we can afford to open our hearts and minds to those around us, setting aside our presuppositions, so that they can surprise and delight us. That which is of real value is stolen not by people taking things away from us but by fear. Being scared creates a closed mind and limits our choices. If we stay in that place too long the walls start to really close around us, isolating us more and more. Being humble means taking a deep breath – drawing in enough air to fill our rib cages our guts and our souls. Then trusting in God enough to let it out, let go, and let the other in.
Image by Laurie Gudim.
Laurie Gudim is a religious iconographer and liturgical artist, a writer and lay preacher living in Fort Collins, CO. See her work online at Everyday Mysteries.