Friday, October 7, 2011

Jesus' humility changed everything.

I was introduced to John Dickson’s book Humilitas at the 2011 Willow Creek Leadership Summit.  Honestly, I went into the session with low expectations, what else would you expect for a talk on humility?  But I came out of the session thinking, "I have to read that book."  Humilitas did not disappoint.  It is a humble little book, small and easy to read, but it is evidence that big things come in small packages.

John Dickson’s main idea is that “the most influential and inspiring people are often marked by humility.”  He works this thesis out by first defining humility (“the noble choice to forego your status, deploy your resources or use your influence for the good of others before yourself”) and then showing how reasonable and beautiful humility really is, especially in leaders (chaps. 1-4).  Dickson uses concrete examples out of history to illustrate his points.  Sir Edmund Hilary, Albert Schweitzer, Muhammad Ali, and Joe Louis are just a few of the lives he examines throughout the book. For me chapter five and six were entirely new and beautiful.  Dickson shows that our modern conception of humility as a good and beautiful thing would have been looked down upon by the ancients.  However, all of that changed around one central figure in history-his name- Jesus.  Dickson shows that the thinking about humility changed 180 degrees because of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus.  So today humility enhances our perception of someone, instead of subtracting from it.  

In the last major section of the book Dickson notes four concrete benefits of humility, particularly for leaders: humility generates growth, humility determines influence, humility lifts those around us, and humility is better than tolerance.  Overall, this is a fantastic little book with big time implications in the lives of leaders.  The chapters fly by, but the concepts will be with you for a long time.

In this book the thing which stuck out most was how the life and particularly the death of Jesus transformed history in such a profound way.  Before Jesus humility was looked down upon.  After Jesus everything changed.   His life, death, and resurrection turned the thinking of its time on its head.  I'll close with one of my favorite passages, the one that Dickson focuses in on in Humilitas which tells us that not only did Jesus humble himself, but that he is now exalted to the highest place.

Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death— even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. ” (Philippians 2:5–11, NIV)

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