Tag Archives: Christianity

Reflection: Called to be humble

Being humble isn’t about thinking less of yourself, it’s about thinking of yourself less.

Being humble is not about being right but being concerned with what is right.

Being humble is about appreciating team attributes, recognising contribution or promoting others rather than promoting self and wanting recognition.

Of course, most people can recognise humbleness is an admirable quality but we can all be a bit introspective, push our personal ideals and want to be recognised at times, we’re only human; anyone who denies struggling with humbleness is only deceiving themselves!

As someone who has frequent brushes with depression, my self-esteem is pretty poor at the best of times, that is – I think very little of myself. I sometimes find myself looking to others for approval or gratification because I struggle to know if what I’m doing is good enough or if who I am is acceptable but I know, through years of therapy, that seeking this from outside is unhelpful and generally, unfruitful. With a low self esteem, I’ve also unfortunately neglected my needs because I think I’m not worthy of care etc. But therapy has taught me it’s in these times when self care is most important. Self compassion and self care isn’t, as one fears, self indulgence, but in fact a vital part of keeping oneself healthy.

I have a quiet unassuming character and time after time what I do goes unnoticed, what I say gets forgotten or attributed to others, the polite requests I make are unfulfilled, for hours at a time even my existence is ignored even if there have been opportunities to notice me. At times my needs have been neglected (even if I’ve had the rare confidence to state them) to such an extent that I don’t know if it’s reasonable to ask for my needs to be met anymore. I have a strange belief about myself that to take up space or to be seen is improper so maybe I bring this treatment on myself? But, to be continuously treated like this, is it any surprise I think nothing of myself?

I frequently have the experience of someone asking a group of people a question, I answer the question but they continue repeating the question; it seems as though they’re more concerned with listening to themselves asking the question than they are the answer! Once someone (else) has managed to get them to listen to the answer, it’s rarely recognised that I answered the question the first time. I feel frustrated that I had the rare confidence to open my mouth and I needn’t have bothered; but if I was humble this wouldn’t matter.

People are so used to me blending into the background and going unnoticed, I was assertive a couple of times a few months ago in a environment where I’m not usually and this was so shocking to the people involved I’m still feeling the unpleasant after-quakes today!

Of course, this is not my only experience, there are plenty of people in this world who care about me and notice me – by default – if you’re reading this blog, you’re probably someone who cares, so I’ll use this opportunity to say thank you! This blog isn’t about having a go at the people who forget about me because, obviously they won’t be reading this! Most of them won’t even know I can write, let alone have a fairly successful blog; most of them, if they know my name, they won’t have a clue how important it is to me to spell my name correctly – to those who do, thank you!

Being humble is easier if your self-esteem is intact. I’ve been reflecting on humbleness and wondering where it fits in with my low self esteem. If I think so little of myself, how do I also think of myself less? How do I balance the self care and compassion that’s necessary to ensure I don’t neglect myself but then make sure I think of myself less?! I think the optimum word here is balance.

Being humble is also easier if other people notice you! But we can’t confuse humbleness with false modesty. Bringing up your contributions and achievements, so that you can be modest and humble about them is not the way to go! My naturally quiet character means other people won’t have a clue I’m being humble, but that’s not what being humble is about.

If I’ve managed to balance my self esteem issues, somehow and I’m now considering how being humble fits with other people – if I’m feeling forgotten and trodden on, if others are promoting themselves over and above me, as they do (because they’re more confident or down right arrogant) do I add to this and show appreciation for their attributes? Another one to ponder! Maybe it’s not about comparisons but simply about appreciating what is right.

So, while writing this, it happened again, I felt forgotten; in this moment I considered pointing out the work I’d done but it only took me a second to stop myself and realise I was looking for recognition from other people. I took a breath and realised, as a Christian, I’m called to be humble, it’s not just a nice-to-have. But, even when it’s hard, what helped me in that moment was that I remembered that God knows every action and every inaction of everyone on Earth. He knows how hard I work, he loves me just the way I am; he knows I wasn’t being humble in that second but he also knew I stopped myself and realised that humbleness was more important than recognition.

I’d worked incredibly hard and had been forgotten again. Recognition would be nice, yes, I felt hurt, I felt crushed, I felt let down, but in this moment, I chose to be humble and by turning to God in my pain, I’m choosing to deepen my relationship with him.

God made me, just the way I am, I’m a grafter, not many people know what I do or how hard I work and I certainly don’t get the gratitude most people would expect. But what makes it all worth it is that, I can turn to God and he knows exactly what I’m going through. Being a Christian isn’t about having an easy life, it’s about having a human life, serving the will of God in relationship with Jesus Christ.

How my faith has helped me during lockdown

When church buildings closed their doors, headlines made it sound as though religious and faith communities were going to halt proceedings. But during Mental Health Awareness Week I’m writing this blog to let you know how Christianity and my extensive Faith community has helped my through one of the strangest times any of us have seen.

I have been struggling with my mental health for all sorts of reasons and I’ve had to dial up the coping strategies to ensure I don’t slide down into the darkness.

For me, mindfulness and distraction are helpful. Mindfulness is a form of meditation where you focus on the here and now, ensuring your attention isn’t distracted by dwelling in the past or worrying about the future. I use crafting to distract myself from distressing thoughts, knitting is my favourite hobby at the moment!

Routine is vital for my mental health and I think the vast majority of us have had our routines jolted out from under us without our consent. I’ve heard lots of people struggling with weekdays and weekends feeling the same. I’ve been involved in producing church services that we can watch online as though we’re going to church at the same time each Sunday. Doing this has given me some purpose. We’ve also have Zoom-coffee after the service to catch up with friends afterwards. Staying connected has been really important for my mental health.

With church services online, people who didn’t attend church before lockdown can now easily access everything that‘s going on. This is a way anyone can separate weekdays from weekends if they choose. However, it’s also fantastic for those who’re working at the weekend, they can now access their church service any time during the week, when it suits them!

A recent Tearfund study revealed that more people than ever are turning to prayer. My husband and I pray together every night before bed; we find out from each other whether we have felt love from each other that day, ask for prayer requests and then pray, include prayers of thanks and pray for each other. This continued routine has helped me. Prayer helps me because it keeps me connected to what’s important. Sitting with my husband, even if it’s just for 5 minutes in the evening and focusing on a few simple things helps me to see what my priorities are.

Alpha is a course that introduces people to the basics of the Christian faith. Just like every other area of life, Alpha has moved online and more people than ever are engaging with Alpha online! Alpha addresses the big questions and gives an opportunity to address the meaning of life. People are being give more time to think and they’re wanting answers.

Some people struggling with the idea of God “allowing” this pandemic to happen but the God I believe in gave human being free-will and unfortunately this means we make mistakes. This pandemic is a man-made disaster and while God is omnipotent, he could stop it, this would completely negate the point of free-will. Instead, God has provided himself as a source, for us to rely on in times of need. I know, no matter how desperate I feel, if I rely on my relationship with God, I will get through.

Modern, white church building on housing estate

Is church relevant anymore?

My faith is of central importance to my life and it always has been; I don’t know what it’s like not to believe in an all loving God I can turn to at anytime and to be part of a community of fellow believers.

Pew ends with stacks of bibles

Not many years ago, going to church was the thing everyone did on a Sunday, on the day of rest, whole families would attend church together as part of their weekly routine. Society has changed a lot, with shops opening on Sunday and many sporting activities happening on Sundays, there are many reasons why the habitual practice of going to church has changed. But does that mean that church no longer has any relevance?

British culture has changed such that people are encouraged to express their individuality, instead of following what their family has done for generations. People, now more than ever, think about what’s right for them personally, rather than fitting in with what everyone else does.

I see many people for whom religion just isn’t on their agenda, they live their life quite happily and don’t see any reason to show any interest in the church or what they have to offer.

Many people have actively been put off church by the things people do “in the name of religion”. Interpreting the Bible in an unhelpful manner has made people think Christians are judgmental do-gooders who do not welcome difference or anyone who’s struggling.

So we have people who have been hurt by the church and we have people who are indifferent – how is the church relevant to either of these groups of people?

When I was young, I went with my family to church, I thought I was an ok Christian – I didn’t think I was anything special but I moved through life being as good-a-person as I could be and I thought that was ok. I knew I sometimes did things that weren’t great, I might have told a fib here and there but I wasn’t a terrible person.

When I went away to uni, I continued going to church, it was what I’d always done, I saw no reason to stop. But it was here that I woke up to what being a Christian really meant. It suddenly hit me was that I was a serial sinner, I committed sins daily even hourly, but I also learnt that that’s ok, God forgives me even before I sin and when I ask for forgiveness, God’s grace is abundant.

But, why am I talking about is sin?! I hear you ask. I’m not that terrible am I?! I’ve not murdered anyone or stolen anything?! The sorts of sins I commit include being quick to anger, being slow to say sorry, letting my emotions dictate how I react to situations, not being compassionate towards people and judging people before I know their story. At the moment something I’m struggling with is that I’m being quite negative at work, I try not to be, I’m generally a positive person, trying to see silver-linings etc but just now I’m letting a negative situation get the better of me – this is not how God made me to be. Maybe other people wouldn’t call these sins but for me, I find it easier to lump everything together otherwise I get unnecessarily caught in grading or rating the level of “not great” I’m being.

God’s grace through Christ is greater than our sin, even on our worst days - white quote on grey background by Jerry Bridges

For me, it is these things that brings me closer to God, they remind me I am human, they humble me, they remind me I can’t do anything without God’s strength and being mindful of my shortfalls keep me striving to be a better person. Yes, I’m sure there are non-Christians out there who try to be good people but I strive to be more Christ like, the bar is high – I will fail but this does not stop me trying.

Jesus loved the sick, he prioritised spending time with criminals – no matter what sin people had committed, Jesus wanted to love them, to accept them and to bring them into his fold. Absolute unconditional love and compassion is not something many people experience – this is what Jesus has on offer.

I’m not one for writing hard hitting challenging blogs as I’m naturally a people pleaser, I don’t like upsetting people, I like to gently present a idea for people to think about but I feel this subject needs a more direct approach. I ask you this – why do you do anything?

Why do you get up in the morning? To go to work? To put breakfast on the table for your family? Because you feel you should?

So why do you do that? Why do you go to work? Why do you prepare meals for your family? Why do feel you should?

Cup of coffee and a pen on a pile of papers with the question “Why am I here”.

Keep asking “why” until you strip your life back to find what you fundamentally believe the point of your life is. Why are you on this earth? What, ultimately, gives you meaning and purpose?

I believe God has put me on this earth to serve him and other people, I believe I am meant to use the skills God has given me to care for other people, to show them love and compassion, and to improve the quality of their lives.

Most of my blogs are about mental health because illness has dominated my life and I believe by sharing my experience and the things I’ve learnt I might help other people, whether it’s by helping people feel less alone or by educating and raising awareness in order to decrease stigma and discrimination.

The connection between my faith and my mental health recovery is simple – I could not have recovered without my faith. There was a point in my recovery where I had to make a conscious decision to take my illness out of the centre of my life. I decided I did not want it to define me. By removing my illness from the centre, I had to replace it with something, for me, this something was God. Other people may want to fill that hole with family, friends or work but in my experience (as fantastic as they are) these things cannot be as rock solid and reliable as God.

While going through trialing times, such as illness, bereavement or relationship breakdown, we all need people we can rely on. As an introvert, I struggle to make friends and it takes me a long time to open up to people. Some people are fortunate enough to have strong groups of friends either purely socially or via a hobby who they can rely on to be there through thick and thin. But for me, it’s my Church community who offer love and acceptance no matter what I’m going through. I don’t need to blurt out my deepest darkest secrets for people to care, to offer words of comfort or to pray with me.

I have been really fortunate that various music groups that I’ve belonged to have been understanding when I’ve been unwell. For example, for a period of time I could only manage half rehearsals but I was still accepted and my participation (no matter how little or unreliable it was) and my talent was appreciated. But with a social group or hobby, there’s an expectation, some condition on you belonging. This situation here was great but there was some expectation that if I was to come along, I would play the saxophone, at least some of the time!

But church goes the extra mile; there are absolutely no conditions placed on being part of a church. There have been times I’ve gone to church, week after week, sat at the back and not spoken to anyone – this was what I wanted and needed at the time. It’s totally up to the individual how much you take part in the church community.

Looking across rolling hills with mountains in the background and trees and hedges in the foreground

People find God in different place, for example, within themselves or in nature and although I agree God is everywhere and people will feel nourished by different environments, God has designed us to be in community and for me, church is not about some old (or new) building, it’s about a community of people, a loving, accepting community of people.

Unfortunately, there are groups of people who call themselves Christians who are judgmental and expect people to conform to a set of rules in order to be accepted into a church but this is not what Christianity is about. My church is a safe and supportive environment where my relationships with Jesus Christ can grow.

So, if you’ve made it to the end of the blog…

If you’ve been hurt by people acting “in the name of religion”, I’m really sorry. Please remember humans get it wrong. The God I know is not judgmental, he is infinitely gracious and longs to have a relationship with you.

If you’re “meh” about religion, might it be worth giving it a go? What have you got to lose?!