Do you have a favorite pie? Mine’s blueberry. Wild Maine blueberry to be exact, with a flaky, buttery crust just like Grandma used to make. Yum. It’s like love on a plate.
If only I could eat “love pie” every day, but as a women’s ministry leader I have often found myself force-feeding “humble pie” into my mouth instead. Most of the time it tasted like swallowing my pride and trying not to think too highly of myself. Sometimes it tasted like doing something someone asked me to do that I didn’t really want to do or holding my tongue when I wanted to say something I shouldn’t.
Then there were the times when eating humble pie made my stomach ache. When the crust was crispy—burned by my mess-ups—and the filling was made of judgment and blame, most of which I added myself. Yuck. Humble pie no longer tasted like humility; it tasted like humiliation on a plate.
At the time, I thought eating this humble pie was the holy-humility-as-a-leader thing to do. I thought humility meant that I had to be what everyone expected me to be and I had to believe I never measured up. No wonder it made me sick.
My humble pie was made with ingredients like these:
- I can’t let anyone know I’m not good enough to do this thing for God.
- I can’t let anyone see I’m a mess.
- I have to do and say everything right.
- I have to be who others expect and want me to be.
I was a leader. I was supposed to have it all together. So my mess-ups turned into coverups, I said yes when I meant no, I made sure everyone’s needs were taken care of except mine, and I did everything I could to appear as humble as possible. I didn’t want anyone to think I was a hotshot.
Scriptures like this scared me into submission: “The Lord detests the proud; they will surely be punished” (Proverbs 16:5).
To avoid such punishment, every compliment or encouragement I received as a leader had to be qualified with an “It’s not me; it’s all God.” I beat myself down at every opportunity, in the name of being a “humble servant,” and even championed this message with the women I led—until things got so messy on the hidden inside of me that I couldn’t make myself look pretty on the outside anymore. My relationships began falling apart even though I tried harder and harder to please. Only then did I begin to recognize that I had the recipe for humility all wrong.
I needed to remember this: “The only accurate way to understand ourselves is by what God is and by what he does for us, not by what we are and what we do for him” (Romans 12:3, MSG).
To make God’s version of humble pie, I needed to stop trying to be someone I wasn’t. In fact, I needed to stop thinking about myself altogether, because all my ingredients started with “I” not “God.”
I was making false humility pie. False humility is about insecurity in who we are. True humility is about security in who God is. The ingredients for true humility are:
- God is perfect. (I don’t have to try to be.)
- God has made me in his image. (My dignity and honor come from him.)
- God loves me unconditionally. (I don’t earn approval by what I do for him.)
- God fixes messes. (I can’t make everything pretty.)
- God makes me secure. (My identity and security come from him.)
- God helps me to love others as I love myself. (I can lead in love when I love myself.)
False humility is like that fake apple pie you can make from Ritz crackers—false. No matter what it looks like, it’s not real. When we don’t believe fully in who he is and who he created us to be, we can’t be real either. This inability to be authentic causes disconnection from genuine relationships—with others and with God. That’s the last thing we want as ministry leaders, yet it was the very thing I was facilitating by my inability to accept the security of my true identity in God.
Can we dare to be vulnerable and admit that we are leaders who are perfectly imperfect messes? Can we embrace the perfection of God’s love for us and share it with the world?
God’s recipe for humble pie tastes much better than mine. In fact, it’s love on a plate—a serving of holy humility that opens my heart and connects the real me to others and to the heart of God.
Linda Crawford is a recovering fraidy-cat who wonders too often why her piecrusts keep burning. Visit Linda’s blog at coloringlifebeautiful.com