Thanksgiving: It’s About Humility

horn_of_cornucopiaThanksgiving. Life of generosity. Blessed.

Thanksgiving too often bring mandates. While the Church leads us to Jesus who healed  the lepers (and only one returned to thank Jesus) who were given new life, many will spend time giving exhortations to give thanks, appreciate family and appreciate our abundance.

I guess I’m going to do the same as I consider professional leadership and Lutheran schools. I hope that this article provides a bit more. It’s right to give thanks for our schools. It’s right to feel blessed….because we are. It’s right to live a life of thanks. And it’s right to direct Thanksgiving Day to our great God. Unfortunately, it’s also nearly a mandate to gorge ourselves with outstanding dinners and then sit down for some football, too.

However, as a church professional in Lutheran schools, what does thanksgiving look like…every day, not just on the four day holiday. Is there a difference? Should there be a difference? Why the difference?

Might we consider Pat Lencioni’s most recent book, The Ideal Team Player? In his book, Lencioni gives his ideas on the three indispensable virtues of an ideal team player. And as those virtues are considered, we may conclude that these three virtues are centered around a life of thanks.  Lencioni’s indispensable virtues for team- humble, smart and hungry.

Humble- “the quality or state of not thinking you are better than other people.” (Merriam-Webster’s Learner’s Dictionary). The  antithesis of humility is arrogance, condescension, or self-centeredness. Do you recognize humility in others? They have a gentle spirit and seem to understand who they are in relation to the world around them. They are generous and positive with others. That being said, humility need not be confused with a lack of self-confidence. C.S. Lewis addressed this misunderstanding about humility when he said “Humility isn’t thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less.” Humility is NOT insecurity. But insecurity CAN demonstrate itself as presenting with overconfidence; insecurity discounts one’s talents.

Smart- Lencioni isn’t speaking about smart as IQ or cognitive ability and accumulation of knowledge.  Rather, in this context, Lencioni is talking about awareness of the people around you and dealing with them in a positive, functional way.  Being smart has everything to do with the ability to be interpersonally appropriate and aware. Smart people tend to know what is happening in a group situation and how to deal with others in the most effective way. They ask good questions, listen to what others are saying, and use good communication skills (more listening than talking!). However, one who is heavily gifted and or misuses this virtue can twist it to be “a charmer.” The charmer is more concerned about self than about others or a project.

Hungry- Lencioni is talking about working hard and being passionate about work. The hungry person is self-motivated and diligent. Hungry people are filled with energy; they are looking for answers; they’re eager to share ideas. Notice that I’m careful to not equate hungry with aggressive. Lencioni suggests that someone who is aggressively hungry could be described as a bulldozer. Bulldozers can do well in their vocations for long periods of time. Why? Because as we live in a world of results, “bulldozers” can make results happen one way or another. This isn’t to say that a bulldozer is unethical. Rather, bulldozers aren’t team players and are quite convinced that they need to get their agenda completed.

It’s interesting with all the attention to personality tests and other psychological reviews that many ministries and many businesses use during the hiring process, here is a highly reputable speaker and CEO suggesting that one’s judgements of prospective employees based on conversations in reference checks, with past acquaintances and in interviews might carry the greatest value.

All this being said, coming back to theme of this article, does it make sense that if these virtues are apparent (humble, hunger, smart), are we talking with someone who is squarely living out a life of thanksgiving, of generosity, of understanding one’s blessings? Are we indeed working with someone who by God’s grace has received God’s gifts of faith, joy and peace and is living out a life that exhibits that faith?

Ego is dangerous thing. It rubs against the first commandment by placing yourself first. It rubs against the fourth commandment as order and authority are challenged by one’s own desires. It rubs against the 8th commandment as reputations are less important than results. If arrogance, self-centeredness, and laziness are visible, rather than dealing with character flaws or missing skill sets, maybe we need to address some faith issues.

We are important because God loves and values us. Our worth comes from him. As we receive His love and find our true worth in Him,  we can truly enjoy our purpose in life and live in contentment.

In Jesus we see the One who has lived a life of true humility and service. Isaiah shares, “He was despised and forsaken of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; And like one from whom men hide their face He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.” Jesus “though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow.”

Where in these verses do we see arrogance, self-centeredness, Machiavellian attitudes and actions? No where. In Jesus we see for our sake, the ultimate in selflessness, in understanding others, in being driven to a goal. For our sake, his goal was death, death we deserve because of our own ego, our own interest in being God. Since Adam and Eve , we have not been satisfied with letting be God be God. We want to instill our desires into the plan.

Thanks be to God that through Jesus and through the life we share now in Him, others are served through us, others know the teamwork of Lutheran schools and we experience the urgency of sharing the Gospel.

A blessed Thanksgiving to all of you.