Do you set spiritual goals? For a long time, my spiritual goals consisted of simple things like 'read the Bible every day.' But as I mature, I realize perhaps I need to move on to meatier goals. Practicing humility, for example. #humility #goals #spiritualgoals #racism #antiracism #biblestudy #humbleheart #socialjustice

Do you set spiritual goals? For a long time, my spiritual goals consisted of simple things like ‘read the Bible every day.’ But as I mature, I realize perhaps I need to move on to meatier goals. Practicing humility, for example.

Have you ever wanted to set a spiritual goal but gotten confused and discouraged by everyone’s ideal of what your goal should be (according to them)? For the next five weeks we’ll explore why and how you can set spiritual goals.

Do you set spiritual goals? For a long time, my spiritual goals consisted of simple things like 'read the Bible every day.' But as I mature, I realize perhaps I need to move on to meatier goals. Practicing humility, for example. #humility #goals #spiritualgoals #racism #antiracism #biblestudy #humbleheart #socialjustice

Yes, I Was a Karen

“Whatever you do,” I pontificated in my best teacher voice to my class of high school students, “you should never drink alcohol.”

“Why not?” an intrepid student asked. “Other teens drink.”

“Because,” I said with solemnity, “as Native Americans, your bodies lack an enzyme that processes alcohol. You’re more likely to become an alcoholic after just one sip.”

My students stared back at me. I forget exactly how the conversation came up, but I do remember feeling as if my pronouncement would somehow save them from a life of alcoholism.

This scene happened over eight years ago, my first year teaching students at a small private school for Native Americans. Three years ago, while helping a student research a paper about the effects of alcohol, I discovered I was wrong.

My misinformation shaded my attitude towards Native Americans. For years I saw them as helpless victims of alcohol. White people had a burden to work with them and excuse them because we had introduced alcohol to them in the first place.

In hindsight, what a prideful, misguided way of looking at a people group. Eight years ago, if asked if I were racist, I would have proclaimed, “Absolutely not!”

Now I see I suffered from just as much racism as the next Karen in American.

As a Christian, I loved everyone with God’s love and treated everyone equally, regardless of race, religion, sexual preference, or religion. Or so I thought. I’ve learned a lot from my students in the past eight years.

My change of heart started with a personal pronoun change.

A Change in Pronoun

“Dear God, please be with these kids, help them to make good choices and keep them safe during the holiday,” a fellow staff member intoned during staff worship.

The next staff member took up the prayer, “These kids need to know you, Father God, just help them to see how much you love them.”

A skiff of unease blew through my mind. As I listened to more staff members beseeching God for mercy on ‘these kids,’ I struggled to figure out what bothered me. It hit me, right before my turn to pray.

“Thank you for our kids,” I prayed. “You love them infinitely more than we ever can. Help us act as your voice of grace, your hands of help, and your arms of love.”

Just a pesky pronoun made all the difference in the world to me. When someone called my students ‘these kids,’ it made the speaker seem set apart. As if they stood on the sidelines looking down at the students wallowing in problems.

Jesus didn’t stand on the sidelines watching us wallow. He joined us as a helpless baby. He became one of us.

Jesus didn't stand on the sidelines of heaven watching us wallow. He joined us in our struggles and despair. #antiracist #Christianity #humility Click To Tweet

When I talk about people groups as ‘these,’ ‘those,’ and ‘you guys,’ I position myself as a sideliner. An often critical, opinionated, and judgmental person standing back and armchair quarterbacking problems other people in society face.

Jesus didn’t do that. He didn’t ask us to do that, either. Through his prophet Micah, God makes it pretty clear what he wants us to do:

“He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.”

Micah 6:8 NLT

Racism Lurks Everywhere

Unfortunately, racism lurks everywhere in our society, and it takes an attitude of humility to recognize it. God wants us to respond to the world in humility, not idealistic pride.

James 2: 3-4 reminds us,

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests, but each of you to the interests of the others.”

NLT

These hacks have helped me on my journey to antiracism. I haven’t arrived, but having a humble heart helps me along on my journey.

1.  Start in the Word

To gain humility, start with prayer and Bible study. Start by asking the Holy Spirit to guide you as you study. As you read each verse, ask the Holy Spirt to reveal to you what you need to learn and apply in your life by reading and reflecting on each verse.

https://alcohol.stanford.edu/alcohol-drug-info/i-bet-you-didnt-know/metabolism

2. Go on a Word Purge

Many times, we accept words or phrases in our everyday vocabulary because we have heard them our entire lives. Just because people use a phrase doesn’t mean it’s polite, helpful, or humble. I resisted this concept for years, because I told myself, “Everyone’s using those words, so they must not mean anything.”

God revealed my flimsy reasoning to me during an embarrassing encounter with a colleague last year.

I’ve removed words and phrases from my vocabulary because they demean people groups. I no longer say:

“Stop acting like a thug.

“Jew someone down.”

“Acting like wild Indians.

“Let’s have a pow-wow.

“Stop trying to gyp me (denigrates Gypsies).”

“They’re Irish twins.”

“Squaw.”

You can find an exhaustive list of ethnic slurs here. If you want a scholarly explanation of why racial epithets always insult, check out this article.  I try to think before I speak.

3. Take a Personal History Inventory

I find it very easy to sit back in my comfortable Costco recliner and judge the rest of the world and how they do things. When I do this, I dredge up my alter ego—Mrs. Judgy McJudgerton—who seems to believe that everyone should be able to do everything she has accomplished. Before I turn Mrs. McJudgerton loose, maybe I should look closely at my own history.

None of my grandparents finished college, but they all had some high school. My grandparents all grew up speaking the majority language. While they lived through the Great Depression, they each benefited from family connections or government help. My paternal grandfather worked in construction, and his large extended family had a system for finding work—a migrant worker network, so to speak. My maternal grandfather worked on public works projects.

All of my grandparents became Christians in their late teens or 20s and bought in to the value of Christian education. My parents both attended Christian elementary, high school, and university—at great financial sacrifice on their parents’ part.

No one in my family has ever achieved wealth—the kind that allows one to play the stock market, own a vacation home, or even eat out regularly. And no one has ever accused us of only getting a job or finishing college because of affirmative action.

Both of my parents graduated from college and have advanced degrees. Because of my skin color, I’ve had a pretty easy life. No one questions my right to walk in certain neighborhoods or my right to drive a nice car.

Take an inventory of your life. Who or what has helped you achieve what you have achieved? How would things be different if one of those variables were missing?

4. Walk in Someone Else’s Shoes

Do you set spiritual goals? For a long time, my spiritual goals consisted of simple things like 'read the Bible every day.' But as I mature, I realize perhaps I need to move on to meatier goals. Practicing humility, for example. #humility #goals #spiritualgoals #racism #antiracism #biblestudy #humbleheart #socialjustice

Once we’ve taken a humble look at our own family of origin, we can begin asking ‘what if’ questions.

Ask “What if—“

“my parents didn’t send me to school until I was 14?”

“I grew up never knowing where my next meal would come from?”

“my parents didn’t speak English?”

“a close family member sexually abused me?”

“my parents moved frequently because of the job market?”

“people gave me ‘the look’ every time I walked into a store?”

How would your life look if one, two, or even all of those things had happened to you? Take time to look at the information on ACES (Adverse Childhood Experiences) and familiarize yourself with what can happen if a child doesn’t have a strong support system.

Not every child who experiences childhood or generational trauma will struggle—but we know surprising little about why some kids are resilient and some are not.

5. Don’t Let Pride Take Over

I’ve discovered idealism and pride often get convoluted in my mind. My personal accomplishments, as well as those of my parents and grandparents form a critical voice in my head that says, “If my parents can do it, then ________ should be able to do it.” Fill in the blank with whatever minority or people group you want to.

For example, “No one ever helped me with a scholarship, look at Laqueta, she got a scholarship and she still can’t succeed.”

Pride and humility walk at different ends of the spectrum. When I find myself comparing others to my accomplishments (and secretly judging them because they haven’t achieved what I have), I find myself teetering on the pride end of the spectrum.

Ask God to help you reword your backup tape. Instead of saying, “I did it, so they should be able to do it, too.” Ask yourself, “I wonder what help that person would appreciate in order to accomplish his or her goals?”

6. Get Informed

Don’t hit your BIPOC friends or co-workers with your questions. They grow weary of having to represent their culture/way or seeing or doing things/experiences to a wondering world. Read a book (or ten). Listen to a book.

Once you have your mind wrapped around a few of the problems, go to your BIPOC friends and acquaintances and ask with humility, “Hey, I’ve read _____ and ______ and I have some questions. Would you be willing to discuss these books/articles/blogs with me sometime?

If they say no, don’t take offense. Just keep trying to learn and change your behavior. The journey towards humility will never make you feel comfortable.

You can find a great list of books on diversity here, here, and here.

My Journey Towards Humility

My journey towards humility has had plenty of ups and downs. Sometimes I embarrass myself, sometimes I embarrass others. But if I want to live out Paul’s godly advice in Philippians 2:3, I have to learn to live with humility. And that takes practice and spiritual goal setting.

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16 Comments

  1. Humility is one of my favorite subjects as I have a lot of learning I need to do in this regard, Anita! Thank you for sharing your wisdom and doing so with such vulnerability and “humility!”

  2. Oh wow, Anita, this post is absolutely brilliant. Humility is such a huge part of who I am to the point that I fear being confident because it seems in direct opposition to being humble. Silly, I know. It is something I am working on!

    I am right with you on being more aware of my privilege as a white woman in America. It took me a while to understand that concept since I grew up in a family with many financial struggles. I didn’t have much and I had to work very hard to get what I do have, but I definitely had white privilege. And a shift in pronouns and wording really does make a huge difference. I am very conscious when it comes to issues of mental health having suffered from Bipolar Disorder my entire life. I cannot tolerate when someone says, “Oh, that person is bipolar” or “I am bipolar.” Mental illness is not the definition of who we are, it is an illness that we have and we should be careful not to assume our illnesses as our identities. It makes a huge difference to shift the phrasing to “I have bipolar” just as one would say “I have the flu.” We never hear anyone say, “I am the flu” so we need to stop saying things like “I am bipolar”. Sorry, I am ranting on and on! I think I have written some posts on these topics. I will try to find them and link them! Thanks for hosting and sharing your enlightening perspectives!

    Shelbee
    http://www.shelbeeontheedge.com

    1. Yes! Our daughter was diagnosed with bipolar disorder about six years ago. Journeying with her as she sought a diagnosis was one of the most difficult times of our lives. I am a firm believer that people get diagnosed, but the diagnosis should never be confused with the person. I’ve written about our experience a lot, too (especially the typical Christian response to mental health issues). I’d love to read your thoughts.
      Anita Ojeda recently posted…Why it Doesn’t Matter What Lies BeyondMy Profile

  3. To answer your question, YES, I always need humility in my spiritual goals. Without humility, the goals will be fruitless. I chose humility as my One Word a few years back, and it was a brutal year. ha. But it was an important one. Now every year I know that I need to keep a foundation of humility. I appreciate how you humbly share the lessons you’ve learned, Anita. You make a difference, friend.
    Lisa notes recently posted…Are You Choosing One Word for 2021? Join Our Community!My Profile

  4. I LOVE this post, Anita. My word for this year was “humility”. I thought about it (and wrote about it) a lot. Sadly, I too have an alter ego like Judgy McJudgerton. I must constantly be on guard to keep her tamped down. Teaching high school students taught me so much about humility. And about forgiveness, grace, and love too! 🙂
    Laurie recently posted…I’ve Got Friends In Low PlacesMy Profile

  5. So good, Anita. Without humility we won’t learn and our progress will be stunted. Love this quote: “Pride and humility walk at different ends of the spectrum.” When I am prideful I can not show grave or love or see the other person’s viewpoint. All I see is my view and how I am right. But humility changes my viewpoint 180 degrees. I know which one I want to embrace.
    Theresa Boedeker recently posted…Embracing the Extremes of Life: How and Why We Can Do ThisMy Profile

  6. I have yet to think about examining my vocab for offensive slurs. I ,of course, have never used the “big” ones that are easily identifiable, but I bet going through that list you linked to will uncover some things for me. Thank you.
    Lauren Renee Sparks recently posted…The Holiday DorkMy Profile

  7. Unconditional love humbles itself and sets pride aside – hard heart lessons, indeed. Your post made me think of Steven Curtis Chapman’s Song “Love Take Me Over” – because I cannot love right without Him! Thank you for encouraging to be more thoughtful of those around us! ~ Maryleigh

  8. This is a great post Anita. I was directed here from Meditations in Motion. If I participated in your link up, it would be my first one. I see many of the posts are obviously tied to Christianity. Is that preferred? In your bio, I see that you like to mountain bike with teens. That’s what my post is about. Please let me know. Thanks
    Jeff Cann recently posted…Old Man Takes a HitMy Profile

    1. Welcome, Jeff! We’d love to have you link up your inspirational content (and biking with teens pretty much always provides inspiration!). Most of the bloggers who link up are Christians, but as long as your posts are G-rated and provide motivation and inspiration, they should be fine! Once again, welcome to the community!

  9. This may sound like a fine point to some, but you have totally hit the nail on the head, Anita. Just a simple word can convey an attitude that we never dreamed we possessed. Our sense of entitlement and superiority leaches out in our conversations.

    ‘Out of the heart the mouth speaks.’

    Such a powerful warning, Anita. I thank you …
    Linda Stoll recently posted…My Favorite Books of 2020My Profile

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Anita Ojeda

Anita Ojeda juggles writing with teaching high school English and history. When she's not lurking in odd places looking for rare birds, you can find her camping with her kids, adventuring with her husband or mountain biking with her students.

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