B. Keith Chapman, President & CEO
I recently read a quote by an unknown author that said, “There’s a thin line between confidence and arrogance…it is called humility. Confidence smiles. Arrogance smirks.” As I processed the meaning of this quote, I immediately reflected on my life and the times in which I felt confident and those times in which I did not. There seems to be a direct correlation between time and confidence. The longer we are in the same position, or doing similar activities, the more confident we naturally become. Does this mean that we run the risk of crossing the thin line between confidence and arrogance? What impact would this have on the people around me? Would I recognize the switch in my behavior? These are all questions I started to ask myself and I am hoping you will ask yourself as well.
When it comes to sharing the Christian faith, the apostle Paul is regarded as one of the most influential people in the Bible. His life is a picture of a miraculous conversion and a journey of spiritual maturity. Paul’s perspective throughout his life creates a unique illustration of humility. In 1 Corinthians 15:9, Paul says, “For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.” Paul sees himself as last among his colleagues. This is an early sign that Paul understands the importance of humility. In the next verse, he goes on to explain that it is only by the grace of God he is even part of such a group. In Ephesians 3:8, Paul says, “Although I am the least of all the Lord’s people, this grace was given to me.” In this passage, which was written a number of years later, he seems to put himself in the lowest position of all believers, a much larger group than the previously mentioned apostles. In I Timothy 1:15, written several years after the book of Ephesians, Paul says, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners – and I am the worst of them.” In this passage, Paul recognizes himself in the lowest position of all sinners. Paul understood that it was God’s grace that allowed for his life to be changed and placed in a position of leadership. Regardless of how much time Paul spent teaching and in a position of leadership, his humility seems to be progressive as he matured in his faith.
It is natural for us to demonstrate humility when we are not comfortable in a particular role. Our dependence on others to get established tends to hold our ego and subsequent risk of arrogance in check. However, with time comes comfort. As we get comfortable, there is an inherent risk for us to lose humility. This is a dangerous place to be in our individual journey of spiritual maturity and leadership. So, how can we be sure that we are demonstrating healthy confidence without tipping the scales too far and becoming arrogant? C. S. Lewis said, “Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less.” Mr. Lewis’ definition of humility can easily be used as a test. If you find yourself focused on others more than yourself, then you are likely in a good spot. However, if you are the primary focus of your actions, decisions and communications, then you may need to refocus and use Paul’s example as a source of inspiration.
Like each of you, I have seen many different approaches to leadership. Some have been successful and some have not. However, humility seems to be a common denominator in the skill set of successful people and effective leaders. Whether you are comfortable in your current role or just entering a new one in life, never forget the importance of humility.