My father had the greatest influence on my desire to live a humble life. I say desire because I all too frequently fall short of that noble goal. I’ll never forget that day when I observed my Dad confessing his fault to my mom shortly after a conflict with her. His initiative affected me as it seemed my mom, in that incident, was more at fault than he was. Dad pulled me aside afterward to explain his actions. “Marty,” he said, “Somebody has to humble himself.”
There have been several times when I’ve put my Dad’s example into practice and discovered just how far a little humility goes toward preserving a relationship. The greatest biblical example, of course, is the cross. Jesus took the initiative to humble himself to take on the nature of a man and then the punishment we deserved upon himself (Philippians 2:6-7). He who knew no sin, and therefore didn’t need to humble himself, became sin for us (2 Corinthians 5:21) to restore us to relationship with God.
It was my father’s humility that birthed in me a willingness to be the one to admit fault in a conflict, and it was the power of the cross that set me free to be able to follow my Dad’s example.
As a pastor, I’ve seen the horrible toll pride takes on relationships. Marriages blow up because neither spouse is willing to be the one to humble themselves. Life-long friendships are shipwrecked on the rocks of stubborn pride. One minute you’re forever friends and the next day you are living like the Hatfields and McCoys.
So, when does pride first take root in our lives? Well, we are all born proud. But it is not usually until our teen years that our pride muscle gets fully exercised. That is when we first discover that no one can make us do anything. I thank God that my Dad’s example checked me in my teen years, but I’ve watched scores of teens reject the counsel of their parents under the banner of “you can’t tell me what to do,” and then shipwreck their lives.
I wrote Dragon Seed to help warn teens against the dangers of independent pride and the horrible consequences of rejecting the advice of parents and then refusing to admit you are wrong. It is my hope that by discovering the antidote of humility early in life, and the example of humility in the cross, the next generation might be spared the consequences of their pride and learn the lesson I first discovered watching my Dad.