Although I’ve never met her in person, I’ve gotten acquainted with a relatively young lady – quite a bit younger than myself – through social media. An artist by profession, she is extraordinarily talented at drawing and painting. I’ve literally been mesmerized by some of her work, and I’ve told her I plan to one day commission her to paint a scene from material found in the New Testament – Matthew 17 to be precise. She has agreed to do so when the time is right.
I not only find in this young lady a measure of artistic depth, but of intellectual and moral depth as well. She strikes me as profoundly decent, principled, and virtuous, as well as quite articulate and routinely sagacious in her written expressions. Do I think she’s perfect? Of course not, although her imperfections, whatever they may consist of, are something I am not privy to.
I recently felt inspired to write to her and in doing so I poured out a fair amount of praise and words of encouragement, appreciation, and empowerment.
Her response was predictable and beautiful. While she appreciated my kind words, especially inasmuch as they lifted her spirits at that moment, she felt totally undeserving of such praise. She truly sees herself as inferior in so many ways.
And that is as it should be.
Therein lies one of the great ironies of life: the truly great, the truly noble, do not see themselves that way.
Imagine a truly virtuous person looking in the mirror and saying, “My goodness! I am so virtuous!” Or a humble person saying, “I have been so richly blessed with humility! I love that about myself!” The concept is self-contradictory. The people I believe are, for example, intellectually brilliant usually say, upon hearing my assessment of them, “Oh, thank you. But truthfully, the more I come to know, the more I realize how little I really do know.”
In contrast, I remember being in the presence of a man some years ago, a man in his 70s, who started to say to me, at the conclusion of a longer conversation, “I am so smart! I really am!” (And he wasn’t being facetious). But then he seemed to realize both the inappropriateness and the absurdity of saying such a thing about himself and wisely stopped himself as he was just about to finish the boast. Frankly, I was never particularly dazzled by this man’s intellect. And his partial boast did nothing to elevate himself in my estimation.
My young friend simply cannot see herself for what she is. And in some ways, I hope she never does. Her innocence, her lack of guile, is a thing of beauty. And the fact that she seems to under-assess her gifts and assets is part of what makes her charming and endearing. It also keeps her humble and enables her to strive to grow and develop into the Christ-like woman she is becoming. I see great things in her future, as she seems to bless everyone she comes in contact with.
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