When Cade was seven, my friend Karee told me about a conversation she had with him while waiting in line at church. Probably feeling quite grown up, compared to Karee’s little toddler, he turned to her and said, “So, how’s everything with your kids?”
Karee said, “Oh, fine. How do you like school?”
Dramatically, Cade responded, “Well, not so good. It’s hard. I have projects and homework…”
Karee smiled and said, “Well, you’re a bright kid. I know you’ll do well. You just have to work at it.”
Cade paused for a moment, then said with a chuckle, “Well, thanks for the ‘bright kid’ comment, but I don’t know about that…”
Karee stiffled a laugh, and when I heard the story second hand, I laughed out loud.
How many times has Cade heard me deflect a compliment with, “I don’t know about that…”? And I’ll bet he mimicked just the right facial and voice expression to go with the words!
But was Cade truly being humble? He is a bright kid and he knows it. Is true humility simply presenting yourself as lower or less than you actually are? Is humility just a matter of projecting low self esteem?
Not according to Jesus’ example. When Peter claimed that Jesus was “the Christ”, Jesus didn’t say, “Well, I don’t know about that…” When people poured expensive perfume on his feet or sang ‘Hosanna’ at his arrival, Jesus didn’t hang his head and said, “Oh, you guys, stop.” He didn’t deflect the honor due him.
Rather, with full acknowledgement of his own great worth, Jesus spent his life on others. He gave himself up for them. That’s true humility.
So, rather than teaching my kids how to deflect compliments or hide their talents, I must train them to know exactly who they are and what they’re good at, and then turn around and nobly forgo status by spending themselves on others. (And the best way to teach them is by doing this, myself.)