THE ROAD TO GROWTH: HUMBLENESS
I realize now that for many, many years I have been running up against a barrier to my spiritual growth—a barrier which I didn’t even notice was there but kept blocking me from going further in my spiritual growth. I don’t believe I have gotten past that barrier yet, but at least I now recognize that it is there and that it blocks me from the growth I desire.
The barrier I have been running up against for so many years is pride or self-sufficiency or reluctance to face my faults or my desperate longing to be perceived as “good.”
David Benner describes me and my barrier perfectly in his book, The Gift of Being Yourself: The Sacred Call to Self-Discovery. He writes,
“The roots of our pretend self lie in our childhood discovery that we can secure love by presenting ourselves in the most flattering light. A little girl hides her hatred of her brother because she knows that she should love him. This lack of integrity is then reinforced by her parents, who commend her loving behavior. A young boy denies his resentment after he fails to get something he desires. In so doing, he takes a step toward a loss of awareness of what he is really feeling. In short, we learn to fake it, appearing as we think important others want us to be and ignoring the evidence to the contrary.” (p. 61-62)
In my longing to be liked by my parents (and then by others) I became skilled at maintaining an appearance of being good. To maintain that appearance, I learned to cover up (and not to face) my faults and weaknesses; I learned to be self-sufficient (not needing anything from anyone); I learned to suppress my negative feelings (those emotions that others would not like to witness in me); and I learned to pretend that I am doing better and feeling better than is actually the case.
But such a way of coping and covering up and suppression and pretending does not lead to spiritual growth. It maintains a status-quo—a rather shallow status-quo.
What leads to spiritual growth is something very different. In their book, How People Grow, Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend comment,
“There is a paradox in spiritual growth: People who are more dysfunctional yet poorer in spirit tend to grow more than people who are less dysfunctional and less poor in spirit. One would think that people with more problems would struggle more with growing, and they certainly do struggle. However—and I have seen this more times than I can count in clinical and counseling settings—poverty drives hunger. You can’t stop a needy person from grasping onto God, while many people in less severe circumstances easily fall away…. God reminds us, time and time again, that He likes neediness. Our life experiences might tell us to avoid need. If so, take a faith step and open up your soul to God and safe people. Spiritual poverty is the only way to be filled with what He has for us.” (p. 269 & 276-277)
No wonder 1 Peter 5:6 counsels us, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that He may lift you up in due time.”