I’m a fan of country music, and I can tell you exactly why. It’s because of the words.
Country music, generally speaking, is about telling stories, and stories invite us in and remind us of our own lives. Sometimes a song seems like it was written just for us.
One such song, lyrics by Tia Sillers, is called I Hope You Dance. People listen to that and are suddenly inside the song. Every song writer aspires to write a song that evokes that kind of connection.
A less serious song, written and performed by Mac Davis, is titled It’s Hard To Be Humble. While it is meant to be funny, there is a great lesson in it.
Even if you don’t know either song, there are a couple of things in the titles you might notice. One is about “you” and also about hope. The other is about “me” and is about a (fictitious) challenge. One title is humble, and the other title — the one that uses the word humble — is prideful.
When you get into the lyrics of the songs, all of that is magnified. Of course the Mac Davis’ song is clearly satire, because Davis was not only a great songwriter, he was a humble man.
What’s your story?
If you were going to write a song, what kind of story would it tell? Would it reveal a humble spirit, or would it reveal the kind of pride that can take over a life?
Perhaps your song would be a little bit of both. I wrote a song lyric once called You Don’t Have To Go To Nashville that had a humble/proud mix in it. Here’s how it starts:
All my life I’d praised the Lord with songs that I would sing
My audience would hear it clear that Jesus was my King.
I was singin’ for His glory, and I went just where He led
Then the praise of men got in my skin and I listened when they said…
Son you should be thinkin’ Nashville, think New York and think L.A.
You’ve got to play the big towns then the big time comes your way.
The charts are calling to you with their money and their fame,
But if you don’t go to Nashville you’re not even in the game.
Can you see the transition in the last two lines of the first verse? It can happen just that quickly in real life.
Maybe something like that has happened to you because of the praise of others, or because of some success you’ve had. Maybe you were raised to think you’re better than everyone else. Or maybe you came into some power and your character has been corrupted.
Two paths, two different outcomes
In last week’s post the first picture is of Darth Vader. It’s a big picture, and he’s a bigger than life character. Although he redeems himself eventually, Darth Vader is a bad guy. He started as a good guy, but he went over to “the dark side.” It’s a great example of power corrupting.
But how many readers recognize themselves in one of the two? Like a song, a picture tells a story that can pull us inside it until we see ourselves there. Can you see yourself as the prideful, powerful, extraordinarily skilled Darth Vader? There is something about the dark side that is attractive, as we all know.
Can you see yourself as Mother Teresa, giving up creature comforts and voluntarily living among “the poorest of the poor” in a foreign country? She not only lived among them, she ministered to them. She opened a school, a hospice, and a leprosy clinic.
Her decades-long work was recognized with a Presidential Medal of Freedom and a Nobel Peace Prize, to name two of dozens of accolades she received. And not even all that made her proud.
Proud or humble? It really is a choice
Allow me to borrow liberally from C. S. Lewis, who wrote:
According to Christian teachers, the essential vice, the utmost evil, is Pride. Unchastity, anger, greed, drunkenness, and all that, are mere flea bites in comparison: it was through Pride that the devil became the devil: Pride leads to every other vice: it is the complete anti-God state of mind… it is Pride which has been the chief cause of misery in every nation and every family since the world began.
Calling other failings “mere flea bites” compared to pride paints quite a picture. It is one that many thoughtful people have agreed with for centuries, and still do today.
If pride is the father of many sins, humility is the mother of good.
I think about people who do good, and I almost always see people who are humble. That does not mean they are poor, or uneducated, or from “the wrong side of the tracks.” Some of the most humble people I know are extraordinarily successful. One or two are even politicians!
Remember, being humble does not mean thinking lowly of yourself, it is simply not thinking of yourself. Or, to stick with C. S. Lewis, “Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it is thinking of yourself less.”
We often get to pride by comparing ourselves to others. Pick the right people for the comparison, you come out on top and you are proud. Or compare yourself to different people, and you can be proud of how you are surviving in spite of your terrible lot in life.
Pride’s comparison game always focuses on “me,” feeding your belief that you are worthy of praise.
You get to humble by doing two things: thinking more about others than you think about yourself; and thinking honestly about yourself when you do think of you. Both of those can become a habit if you practice them, and your life will be better if you do.
In spite of what Mac Davis sang, it really is not hard to be humble. But if you’re struggling and still playing the comparison game, just compare yourself to God for a few minutes every day for one week.
Most of us can learn humility, and though we are unlikely to be another Mother Teresa, we can all avoid becoming another Darth Vader.
Do good. It’s in you.