One of the reasons I like being around millennials and college students is that they have a very well attuned BS barometer. Unlike children, and unlike more mature adults, this group of people live in a nexus between an emerging awareness of the world without having yet been crusted over with bitterness or disillusionment. They can spot a disingenuous person across the room like an eagle eyes the difference between a fish and a rock at 5,000 feet in the air.
You know the experience. You might not be able to explain why, but you’ve had the encounter with the person who seems off, just a bit contrived and manipulative in his speech or behavior. He/she might talk a good line, but your instincts tell you different.
One of the things that is difficult for many people is that life isn’t about learning a certain skill set, as if life is like a trade school. The skills approach simply thinks that you learn to say certain things, do certain things, and press certain buttons in others and you will get a solid expected outcome. That kind of approach is where the BS meter goes off in others. They sense that this person talking to them is not bringing anything of themselves to the discussion; they’re just talking without listening; they just go on without a sense of dialogue in which they learn from you or reveal anything of themselves to you.
I truly believe that the virtue of humility is so very important and necessary. Without humility, there is no sense of the majesty and dignity of the other person. Without humility, there is only competition – I conquer, and you are the conquered. Without humility, life is a trade school in learning to get what I want on the backs of others.
But with humility, who I am as a person matters. I bring my feelings, my thoughts, my beliefs, my experiences, and my questions into the conversation or situation and seek to, in turn, discover what you think and feel. Then, together, we come to a third way of seeing that honors our collective sharing. That isn’t a skill set; its just being a good human being.
The trade school approach wants to know how one becomes humble. However, humility is a posture, not a skill. It is taking a position of learning, growth and development. It is to sit with uncertainty and mystery so that genuine relationship has a real go at happening. Humility is much more sitting on the floor at Jesus’ feet and discovering something about yourself, God, and the interaction between each.
The rich young ruler wanted a clear, concise, and certain answer to his question: “Good teacher, what can I do to have eternal life?” In-other-words: “What skill set do I need that I don’t already have to get eternal life?” Wrong question. Jesus didn’t even begin to touch it because he had the most attuned BS meter ever in history.
Jesus asked his own question: “Why do you call me good?” That question was way off from what the rich young ruler wanted or expected. But the question was meant by Jesus to evoke a sense of humility that would lead to discovery and trust of God. Jesus finally got around to telling the man what he needed to do: “Go sell everything you own. Give the money to the poor… Then come and follow me.” (Mark 10:17-27)
The humble emptying of oneself is necessary in awakening to a new awareness that God is with you. It may not mean that you give everything you own away, but it will mean coming face to face with yourself. It will mean exploring God. It will mean living in the awkward in-between of assurance and uncertainty, being loved but not knowing where that love will take you, and following Jesus without a pre-negotiated plan.
You can’t BS your way through the Christian life. You need the posture of humility. Jesus will be your Teacher, but you will need to bring yourself to the mix because Christianity is not dispassionately taking notes and then forensically regurgitating it all on an exam. Instead, Christianity is a dynamic spiritual encounter between you and God through the person of Jesus. It begins with humility.