Anya Briggs on the challenge of humility

Humility. It’s not a popular word. You certainly wouldn’t hear it being banded across the school cafeteria and whispered about during classes. In fact it’s not secret that one of the biggest concerns for teenagers today is how they come across the others. But this isn’t what I’m here to say.

The teenage years are often a rollercoaster of discovering the world and oneself; it can only be expected that many youth are seeking to appear ‘cool’ in this identity forming time.

What I want to talk about, instead, is something a little closer to home. When we reach our 20s, when we settle down and become more mature in our Christian faith, it is incredibly difficult to let go of this desperate search for ‘cool’ that begins in our younger years. You only have to look at Facebook, Twitter or Instagram to see this collective scramble for acceptance. There is now a whole cyber-world where it is possible to gain ‘followers’, ‘friends’ and ‘likes’ and it is all too tempting to want to post photos of ourselves doing exciting things, or to want to try that little bit too hard to be funny in our status’ in order to gain approval. In the world of youth work this is especially hard and there is constant pressure to remain up-to-date and entertaining.

This is only worth talking about because it is a way of living far removed from the freedom that we see in the New Testament. We often think that Jesus’ disputes with the Pharisees were about their legalism; they thought they could get to God through works. However Jesus’ problem with the Pharisees is that they were doing works because they were trying to seek praise and approval. It is sobering to think that the Pharisees of today might not be the ‘religious’ people, like we so often think, but might instead be the kind of people who are constantly seeking to be ‘cool’. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t intended as a guilt-trip or a telling-off (I can relate to these struggles as much as the next person), but rather as a desperate plea for all of us to rediscover the soul-healing freedom that the gospel gives us to be ourselves.

The good news? We are all ok. In fact – we are more than that, we are incredible, loved and highly valued members of the kingdom of the living God. We need to be showing the world that our search for approval has ended because we have found all the approval we will ever need in God. Of course, this is often a process and it is not always easy to believe that we have been accepted, however as youth workers it is so so important that we are at least making steps in the journey of humility and acceptance. Our young people are watching us, and as they see us give up a search for ‘cool’ and rest in the acceptance for God they are more likely to find freedom from the approval scramble themselves.

So – a challenge. If you see something of yourself in this - don’t worry, but do make a first step. Decide to be vulnerable with your youth or with your friends. Let them see the real you. Or, as a statement that we as Christians are going to be different, let’s post something on Facebook, on Twitter, on our blogs, wherever, that is real, something that it might cost us to put up, something that requires humility. And this doesn’t mean post something completely random (the effect we are going for isn’t funny!), but rather, something that it could help others to read. Either choose something in context, or, if it’s out the blue, using #challengehumility might help. As youth workers, let’s start a new trend – a trend for authenticity, freedom and humility.

Anya Briggs is the editorial intern for Youthwork and Childrenswork magazines.