Our pastor, Todd Proctor, was recently talking about humility, and he used this line: “Invest In Obscurity”.
The simple idea is that if you’re a leader that wants to serve with humility, then you need to find things to do that are out of the spotlight.
As a leader, I’m often in the spotlight. I’m used to public recognition and affirmation, and when I don’t get it, or when I receive some criticism, then it’s really difficult.
The idea of humility comes from Jesus’ words in Luke 14: “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
A number of years ago, we had a single mother living next door to us with her 2 small children and her disabled grandfather. She wasn’t very friendly, and pretty much avoided any conversation with any of the neighbors. I was trying to figure out something I could do to help, so I began hauling in her empty trash cans after they had been emptied. It was a simple thing. It took an extra 3 minutes of my life, and didn’t require that much effort. I did this every week for a couple of years.
I remember vividly one day that I decided NOT to take her cans in. I began thinking to myself: “Why doesn’t she thank me for this service? Does she notice that I’ve been doing this for years? Does she even care?”
I found myself getting a little put-out because she didn’t give me any recognition, and really didn’t seem to care.
I stopped taking her cans in for about a month. I justified this in myself, and decided that she didn’t need my help. The amazing thing is that each week, she would take her cans in. 3 minutes of her life. not a big deal.
Soon, I realized what an idiot I was. I was serving in order to be thanked. I wasn’t “investing in obscurity”, or I wasn’t serving because I really wanted to serve.
The next week, I began taking her cans back in. Again, no thanks, no conversation, no acknowledgement. But I realized that this act of service wasn’t about her. It was about me.
We lived next door to her for a couple more years, and I took the cans in faithfully until we moved away. No goodbye. No thank you. That’s OK.
Have you thought of ways that you can “invest in obscurity”?
- Be Open To Others’ Opinions
- Tend To Others’ Needs
- Admit Mistakes
- Accept Ambiguity
- Let People Do Their Jobs
We can all learn to be a little more humble. A great way to do that is to find ways to “invest in obscurity”.
This morning, I looked at all of the trash cans out in front of the houses on our street. I need to find someone else that I can secretly serve. What about you?