Magazines 2024 Jan - Feb A humble heart

A humble heart

05 January 2024 By Karen Gibson

How good are we at forgiving, rebuking, saying sorry and the like? Let’s reflect together in this series.


Ihave a friend who used to have a habit of saying, "Don’t judge me," prior to sharing information about herself. For example, "Don’t judge me – I served my family fast food for supper last night."

At first I found this comical and endearing. However, it eventually became tiresome. It irritated me to think my friend experienced me as judgmental.

However, when I reflected further I had to admit her wording, even when delivered in jest, actually had much to teach me about my tendency to form quick, and not very gracious, assumptions and judgments of others. Such judging takes very little mental effort on my part. It came rather naturally back then – and it still does.

This might be true for most of us. We live in a culture that is, sadly, not shaping us to be quick to listen or slow to speak (James 1:19–20).

In my work as a marriage and family therapist, I am a regular witness (and sometimes a referee) to conversations between couples or family members that end in frustration, confusion and disconnection.

I sit with people who are deeply committed to their perception of the motives and attitudes of others, or unwaveringly confident in the accuracy of their recollections of a particular event.

I observe people so dedicated to the accuracy of their perceptions, convictions and judgments that they seemingly would rather sacrifice the well-being of their loved one(s) and the overall health of their relationships rather than slow down, step back and consider another perspective.

I admit it feels good to me when my thoughts, opinions, and memories are shown to be reliable and trustworthy. It validates and authenticates me. Such validation is something we all long for. It’s a basic and necessary human need connected to our survival – at least our emotional survival.

However, when we focus on the superiority of the way we see the world, we are not able to be curious and gracious with others, and we will not flourish. The cost is huge to ourselves and our community.

In her song "Humble Heart," Christian singer Jess Ray ( illustrates the beauty and necessity of humility in our relationships, and the price we often pay when we stubbornly insist on the primacy of our voice, thoughts and judgments.

I want a humble heart
Oh, how I have so much to learn
I want a humble heart
Oh, how I have so much to learn
Yes, I want a humble heart
Oh, how I have so much to learn
Oh, how I have so much to learn

The repetition in these lyrics suggests that while the longing for humility is a good and necessary one, the achievement of a humble heart is a deeply challenging human endeavour. A modest and honest view of ourselves and our opinions, along with an openness to others, does not come naturally.

We learn humility. And we often learn it the hard way:

‘Cause pride, it isn’t worth it
It makes me lonely and leaves me stranded
When I, I never wanted to be alone

The space between ourselves and others grows when we insist on the primacy of our voice, opinions and judgments. When we fail to walk in humility, when we fail to make space for others, we are ultimately left with nothing but ourselves.

We don’t want to be alone.

A humble heart is birthed and shaped in community. It’s in our relationships that we practise humility, fail at humility and repair the disconnection pride creates as we invite each other back into connection with openness and generosity.

And it’ll all be alright over bread and wine
Would you come and dine with me?
And let’s gather around the table and share stories ‘til
The sun goes down and secrets ‘til the stars fill the sky
And we’ll laugh about tomorrow and we’ll drown
All our sorrows in the joy of being side by side

The joy of being side by side. Oh, how we still have so much to learn.

Karen Gibson is a marriage and family therapist ( in Saskatoon.

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