Standing in Awe
Standing in awe of this wondrous creation is the beginning of humility. A sense of deep indebtedness necessarily arises once we see the bigger picture. And recognizing the creative energy responsible for it all only deepens that sense. Humility and a sense of awe of creation go hand-in-hand.
It’s impossible to define the something bigger that we’re all a part of. But suffice it to say we owe our very existence to it. And when we consider how vast creation is, we can easily feel small. But each of us is a significant part of that something. So, clearly, we’re meant to be here. True humility is not just the lowly feeling that standing in awe necessarily invites. It’s also about recognizing the incredible gift our very existence is. And it’s claiming our inherent value, humbled in the knowledge that we were loved first. We didn’t earn this gift. Nor are we inherently deserving of it. But we’ve indeed been gifted. And once we comprehend that at a deep level, we can’t help feeling humble.
You can look at character from many perspectives. Certainly, there’s a moral side to character. Folks of sound character embrace certain values and principles. And they impose boundaries and limits on themselves in line with those principles. They understand the important rules. And they willingly live by them. Moreover, they do all this both for the greater good and ultimately, for their own welfare. But to get to that willing place, they have to have outgrown the natural egocentricity we’re all born with. (See: Outgrowing Natural Egocentricity.)
From a spiritual perspective, character is less about heeding the rules and more about the relationship we have with that undefinable something bigger. It’s about standing in awe of the gift we’ve been given. And it’s appreciating our inherent indebtedness. This is what inspires gratitude. And it’s gratitude that can move us to charitable acts. Our labors become acts of genuine love. So, ultimately, character is about loving. It’s the one rule we truly need to heed.
Character Development Failures
For a long time, mental health professionals had it wrong about character disturbances. We often taught that people behaved badly because bad things had happened to them. We know trauma can leave scars and stunt growth. So, some promoted this axiom: “Only hurt people hurt people.” Of course, there’s a grain of truth in this axiom. The problem with it is in the word “only.” Sadly, there are many other reasons why people hurt people. One of those reasons is that some people simply haven’t spiritually grown up. And many times, people’s growth arrests aren’t simply the result of trauma. In fact, sometimes it’s not so much what happens to us that causes problems. Rather, it’s what doesn’t happen during the course of our character development. Some folks simply never embraced and mastered the crucial life lessons the “10 commandments” are meant to teach. (See: pp. 140-143 in Character Disturbance.)
Some disturbed characters never outgrew their natural egocentricity. And some never developed a sense of being beholding to a higher power. Accordingly, they developed a sense of entitlement. And they became too enamored of themselves. As a result, as one researcher has suggested, they became “legends in their own minds.” And they felt a perfect right to do as they please without concern for the bigger picture.
We’ve been talking about the “10th Commandment” of solid character growth. This commandment is all about being of sincere heart and purpose. But to be of sincere heart, we first must be of humble heart. (See: Humility of Heart Leads to Sincerity.) And to cultivate humility of heart we have to see ourselves as but a small part of something so magnificent it defies comprehension. Standing in awe is the first step. Recognizing our inherent indebtedness is the second step. Striving to honor the debt is the third. And we’ll be talking more about that next time.