April 30, 2014

Blessed are the Meek

I was reminded about being meek today (LOL!) A colleague texted me with the message,  "Blessed are the meek," as an aside to an email from our COM 702 professor this morning. Our professor sent out an email to our cohort reminding us that we shouldn't be focused on grades and GPA, but rather we should be happy with program content and doing our best (his words, "it doesn't matter whether you get a B or an A"). It was signed by all three main professors in the program, and it came right as final grades are being sent to the registrar's office. My gut tells me it was to prepare us for the final grades, and to caution us about being overly focused on numbers. Some of my colleagues are upset over the email. I am sure a couple are upset about their final grades in his course, but others are upset about his "grades don't matter" remark. I get it, really I do, and I agree with him in theory. But, for most of us grades do matter! GPA's may not count after you graduate or when you are applying for jobs, but financial aid and scholarships/foundations do consider GPAs when deciding on how much money to lend or award. I digress...

I am thankful for my grade in COM 702, even if it is not my normal "A." I know how hard that final was and I know that several of my colleagues didn't do as well as they hoped on it. I also have had this professor before (last semester), and I know how he grades. I know that he has these ridiculous finals, and he is nit picky when it comes to formatting on papers. He is a super tough grader. I had the advantage of knowing what to expect, and while I don't like that he grades us like undergrads (with points, quizzes, and exams), I also known that he does it so that we have no excuse for our final grade. If he posts accumulating points, then you, as a student, always know where you stand throughout the semester. In short, it is difficult to squabble over a grade when you see your point total and know immediately how well you are doing in the class.

So as I consider "meekness" today, I am thinking about my attitude toward my grades as well as they way I talk about my achievements. I know that some people think I am arrogant (I have been called that before and while I disagree I do understand how I could appear that way). I guess I have never considered myself as arrogant because I never believed I was good at "doing" anything in particular. As a child, I did not achieve success or exhibit any natural ability or talent. I was not a good student in school (my teacher's wrote "she is such a sweet girl" or "she is such a delight to have in class" and then they would add "she needs to not talk so much and focus more on her work!"). My friends from school would tell you that I wasn't a good student (average only), and that I was very clumsy (I walked into walls, tripped over my own feet, and generally was clueless most of the time). I was also not good at sports. I wasn't beautiful, and I didn't have a beautiful figure. Nope, I was very gangly, homely, and klutzy.

I didn't really discover any hidden talent until I was a junior in high school. I took Art for the first time, and thanks to my parents moving across country and a new school that required more credits to graduate, I found a passionate interest (the first!) I loved drawing as a child, but my 6th grade teacher told me that I had no talent and should give it up (Yeah, he was mean!) I didn't excel in 7-8th grade Arts and Crafts either. But for some reason, I took to painting and I found that I was very good at it. Moreover, I found that I loved pen and ink drawing, and my Art teachers recognized "something" in me. It was the first time (besides my 7th grade French teacher who told me I should study French in college because I had a natural accent) anyone recognized me for any kind of special ability. I loved drawing and painting and I loved producing art work. However, I never believed I was good enough to be a fine artist. There were students in my classes back then who were so good. Oh my! They were awesome artists and I knew then and there that I was just average. That was me in a nutshell -- only average.

My grades in high school were average. I didn't excel in writing, in scholarly study, in academics. I was glad to graduate and finish school. I didn't even want to go on to college. My parents said I had to go so I enrolled at the Community College. I was accepted to SJSU but after seeing all the really GREAT Art students during a campus tour, I quickly changed my mind and went to the smaller CC.  I learned that I was just average at the CC as well. I didn't stand out as an artist in those early art courses. I was just OK. I also didn't stand out in any other class. My grades were poor to fair, and generally speaking, I loathed the CC as much as I loathed high school.

I worked in a number of jobs after community college. I was a Technical Assistant (a glorified title -- I made Blueline copies of engineering drawings -- I am lucky I have brain cells left due to the chemicals I inhaled 8 hours a day!!) I left that job and took a position as an Administrative Assistant at CompuServe. After that position, I worked as a Admin Assistant again, but this time for Britton Lee/Share Base/Teradata Corp (where I learned how to be really techy!). I was laid off and then I went back to school (at age 28) to get a BA degree. The first real success in college came at SJSU after I had worked for six years in thankless positions. I learned so much from the "school of hard knocks." I learned how to be dependable, how to turn in projects on time, how to show up on time (a biggie), and how to be responsible. I learned how to get along with others, to work in a team, and to take control of the tasks assigned to me. I took those skills and used them in school, and I earned good grades. I never was late. I went to every class. I met the Professors and I made sure they knew my name. I did all the things I had learned in corporate life, and I reaped rewards. I was a Dean's Scholar first, then I was a President's Scholar. I earned accolades and I was given opportunity to go on to graduate school.

So why do people think you are arrogant when you demonstrate pride in your accomplishments? Why should you feel bad about doing well, working hard, and succeeding at something you have focused on?

I think the reason is that most people do not focus at all. Most people slide by, and they wait for achievement to be handed to them. Yes, I think the years of self-esteem-ism in the schools has created several generations of people who believe they are entitled to rewards without having to work hard to earn them. I can remember colleagues at work who thought they were entitled to a raise just because they showed up to work every day. They were not doing exceptional work nor where they providing excellent service/support. They just believed that they should get a pay raise for being an employee of the company.

For me, humility is not self-deprecation. In fact, deprecating oneself (to express disapproval) in my view can be sinful behavior. There is a fine line between being humble about yourself and using negative words to tear yourself down. In my opinion, the key is in how you handle your own achievements. I think it is fine to take pride in your hard work. After all, you worked hard! You overcame obstacles, and you experienced victory! It is another thing to constantly talk about yourself in the negative, to put yourself down, and to think so lowly of yourself that you do not express any value in your life.  This is where humility ends and sin begins (again, just my POV).

God has created you for a purpose. You are perfectly formed and made in His image. Yes, sin has marred that perfection, and yes, you struggle to overcome sinful temptations and to live a holy, God-honoring life. However, if you are born again, a believer, saved and sanctified by the Holy Spirit of God, then you have no right to put down that with which He has created! Amen, so be it, thy will be done! Selah!

Therefore, how can a person who trusts in the Lord for everything good in their life be arrogant? It would be impossible to do so because the Holy Spirit would be working over-time to keep that pride in check, to make sure that humility is not trumped by arrogance. Personally, I think the issue stems from a healthy God-centered opinion of yourself. If your worth comes from God first, then you are free to believe in yourself, to see value in your abilities, and to understand your strengths and weaknesses. The Bible calls us to have a "right estimation of ourselves," which just means that you should be able to speak freely about your accomplishments without taking on a prideful tone because you understand from where your "righteousness" comes (PTL!).

Well, that is what I believe anyway...

OK, I am stepping off my soap box now, and I am moving on...

Today is a good day for me. I am feeling good, feeling well (hooray!) and I am working hard to grade my remaining student research papers. I am enjoying my days off this week, and I am feeling confident about starting classes again next week. In truth, I need school to keep my mind occupied. I was so BORED last night. I tried to find a good movie to watch on NetFlix and Amazon Instant Video, and I couldn't find anything worth watching. I ended up going to bed at 9:30 p.m. UGH!

I think boredom is my Achilles heel. When I get bored, then I get into trouble (LOL!) My son is the exact same way, and I always knew I had to keep a sharp eye on him whenever I sensed he was getting bored. I always made sure he had plenty to do (work) as well as plenty of interesting things to think about (school). I am just as bad, and the worst part, is that I should know better. I really should know better. I mean, next week begins another semester of doctoral classes. I will be slammed come this time in June, and I will be reeling from the workload. Yet, here I am, with free time abounding, and I am loathing not having anything to do (shame on me!)

I did adopt my nephew's goldfish...(digression!)

His girlfriend gave him a gold fish a couple months ago, and Lenny (the fish) has survived since then. Well, Lenny wasn't going to make it home to Simi Valley, so I said he could stay here in Phoenix until school starts in the fall. The tank he is in had a broken filter and the water smelled horrible. I spent the better part of Sunday cleaning his tank and trying to get the filter working again. Yesterday, I broke down and went to WalMart and bought a new filter for his tank. Lenny is very happy today. The water cleared up and he is actively swimming around. I have decided that if Lenny lives until next week, then I am getting him a girl fish. I saw a very cute little one (not really sure if she is a she) that would make a nice companion for him. I am going to call her "Fiona" because that would sound good -- Lenny and Fiona. I am also going to find one of those little hiding places so that Lenny and Fiona have a place to hide (especially when both Ike and Winston get on the counter -- up close and personal -- and check them out!)

So there you have it -- I am so bored that I am vicariously living through goldfish! Lord, help me now!!

Lastly, and this is a very good thing, I am feeling better about the whole marriage thing. I have decided to stop talking about it, and to let the Lord do His thing. He is very capable of handling my emotional needs. He has given me such peace of mind today, and He has filled me up with His goodness. I feel good. I feel really good about whatever the Lord has in mind for me -- today, tomorrow and in my future. I know He knows me well. He has my needs in mind, and they are important to Him. I understand that my whole being -- my mind, my heart, my soul and my strength -- belong to Him. He has me covered, well covered. If He determines that I go this way, then I go this way. If He chooses for me to go that way, then I go that way. I am flexible. I am movable. I am adaptable. I go where He sends me, I do the work He has prepared me to do, and I live where He tells me to live. I am good. I am happy. I am content.

God is good, so very good to me. Selah!

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