given by Courtney Phelps, Director of Community Service Learning

If you are a football fan, like me, you may have heard quite a bit of controversy around the New York Giants. It’s no secret that the New York Giants have lost five of their six games so far. Their losses have not only affected their fan base, but even their star player, Odell Beckham who has had a lot to say about it. This year, Odell, the NY Giants wide-receiver, was offered an extended contract making him the highest paid wide-receiver in NFL history. With outstanding records, he adds tremendous value to the NY Giant’s brand. You’d think with his pay and record the Giants would have a great start to the season; that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Fully aware of his value, Odell stated that his strengths were valuable and could lead the team to victory and that all he needed was the ball. While no one can deny he is indeed a great player, in his discontent for his team’s performance, many have questioned his humility.

Humility is often associated with coming from “impoverished” beginnings or having a “low” perspective of yourself. Philippians 2:3 says, “Do nothing from rivalry or conceit but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” To be honest, I struggled just a bit with this notion. How to be humble and count others more significant than myself and yet be proud of my accomplishments?

Maybe you feel the same way. You all are receiving a great education, one others could only dream of, you have talents that distinguish you, and connections that propel you. You will go on to continue your education at great institutions and accomplish great things. Hopefully making yourselves and your families proud. It is easy to get consumed in your own accomplishments. You’ve worked hard to get where you are today. But how in all that pride do you remain humble? Why would we want to have a low perspective of our gifts.

I would argue that humility is not having a low-perspective of ourselves, it is not being so full of ourselves that we value ourselves and our gifts more than those in other people. Humility is in fact, the energy in community building. Could it be that Odell values his gifts more than his teammates and misses the opportunity to create teamwork?

Saint Paul, the writer of our scripture I just referenced, writes from prison to the church he started in Philippi. He writes this letter to warn the church of outside influences that could disrupt their theology. He encouraged church leaders not to become too inflamed by their own ego or power. He insists that humility does not deny the greatness in oneself, but it identifies equitable and greater gifts in others as well. Once you see beyond yourself and can value the works and creativity of other people, you engage with each other by encouraging each other and building community.

We live in a culture that focuses so much on the individual and with the introduction of social media, that behavior and mind state have only intensified. We are so used to things being catered to us. Technology caters to us, what we searched pushes specific ads our way and information is limited to this bubble of me, myself and I. We can easily fall into the trap of power dynamics and this notion of the haves and the have-nots. We rarely get to experience things outside of ourselves. And sometimes, when we experience those differences, we are quick to be on the defense.

So how do we stay on the offense? I have three suggestions that hopefully help you walk the path of humility.  

  1. Be Coachable – Odell did not become successful on his own. Mohammed Ali didn’t become the greatest alone. You did not get where you are today all on your own. I certainly did not. The phrase it takes a village rings true time and time again. You have a community that is there to support you and continues to teach you life lessons regardless of your level of success. Be open to the teachable moments whether directly or indirectly.
  2. Lift those around you – When author and producer Issa Rae gained notoriety and success, she did not go out looking for top-tier writers and directors for her productions. She lifted up those who walked with her on her journey.
  3. Lead by example – You don’t have to be on the front lines to lead. Even if you didn’t get chosen for first or second or even third place, be gracious and happy for those that did, acknowledging what that brings to the community as a whole.

Humility is not about denying your gifts, it is about engaging everyone regardless of color, class, or beliefs so that the entire community succeeds together.



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