Alex Haley, the author of Roots, had a picture in his office showing a turtle sitting atop a fence. The picture was there to remind him of a lesson he learned long ago: “If you see a turtle on a fence post, you know he had some help.”

Haley said that when he began to be puffed up with pride the picture would help him realize that like that turtle he could not have achieved such success without the help of others. This much acclaimed journalist and author understood what Thomas Merton asserted: “Pride makes us artificial and humility makes us real.”

It was John Ruskin, a prominent social thinker and philanthropist of the 19th century, who said, “… the first test of a truly great man is his humility. … Really great men have a feeling that the greatness is not in them but through them; that they could not do or be anything else than God made them.” 

Madonna- not the Mother of Jesus but the entertainer- once said, “I won’t be happy until I am as famous as Jesus.” Her words express an attitude that stands totally opposite of humility. She would be well served if she heeded the advice of D. L Moody to be humble or you’ll stumble.

It has been said that humility is the solid foundation of all virtues. Sadly it is far too infrequent that you find a person who is truly humble. Pride and bravado are much more frequently observed in human behavior.

I remember a story of a little girl who was chosen as a volunteer from an audience to help a magician perform his magic tricks. She held a hat, out of which he pulled a rabbit, picked cards from a deck as he did card tricks, and held open a box for everyone to see after the magician made objects disappear inside. Overcome by it all, she burst out, “Hey, I’m getting pretty good at this!”

George Washington Carver, the scientist who developed hundreds of useful products from the peanut said, “When I was young, I said to God, ‘God, tell me the mystery of the universe.’ But God answered, ‘That knowledge is reserved for me alone.’ So I said, ‘God, tell me the mystery of the peanut.’ Then God said, ‘Well, George, that’s more nearly your size.’ And he told me.” 

Winston Churchill was once asked, “Doesn’t it thrill you to know that every time you make a speech, the hall is packed to overflowing?” “It’s quite flattering,” replied Sir Winston. “But whenever I feel that way, I always remember that if instead of making a political speech I was being hanged, the crowd would be twice as big.” 

The Apostle Paul wrote to the Christians at Rome, “Don’t cherish exaggerated ideas of yourself or your importance, but try to have a sane estimate of your capabilities..” (Romans 12:3, J. B. Phillips New Testament).

 It is good to remember, “Pride comes before a disaster, but humility comes before respect” (Proverbs 18:12, CEB). Right relationships with God and others always begin with humility, not arrogance.


Jamie Jenkins