Parenting Toward Humility

Having children has been one of the greatest blessings of my life. Seeing my baby daughter raise her little head in the morning to greet me with a positively radiant smile as I walk in her room gives me a simple but deep joy. Having my two-and-a-half year old son ask, “Daddy hold you,”—getting the pronouns mixed up—or hearing him sing “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” fills me with the same. Children are certainly a continual source of wonder and delight.

Of course, they are also an enormous responsibility, a fact that I was reminded of while reading C. J. Mahaney’s short book Humility. I finished the book some time ago, but the content of its final chapter, the portion of the book that deals most directly with parenting, continues to come to my mind. Though I’d certainly recommend you read the book yourself, I thought I’d summarize a handful of Mahaney’s important points:

1. Parenting is about preparation.

The book’s foundational point is that humility is absolutely essential to our embracing and living consistently with the gospel and God’s purpose for our lives. In that respect, it’s our greatest friend and the mark of biblically defined greatness. Therefore we need to be asking ourselves what we’re doing to cultivate a proper humility in our children. In Mahaney’s words:

“As I understand it, parenting is about preparation. Preparation for our children’s future and for the fast-approaching final day of judgment. If you are a father or mother, let me ask you: How’s the preparation going. What is your plan for preparing your child? What are the content and goals of your preparation? What kind of legacy will you be leaving for your son or daughter? …If humility is to endure in our families and churches, it must be cultivated by parents and pastors and passed on to our families and churches” (156).

2. Examine your ambitions for your children.

“Are any of your ambitions for your child more important to you that their cultivation of humility and servanthood—the basis for true greatness as biblically defined? Are any of these ambitions more important to your that their learning to serve others for the glory of God? In other words, are you more interested in temporal recognition for your child than your in his eternal reward?” (158).

3. Model true greatness.

“Modeling precedes teaching. We cannot teach or train our children if we don’t provide a pattern or model to follow. …Effective teaching, in fact, involves explaining to our children what they’re already observing in our lives by example.” (158-59).

To be sure, this won’t be done perfectly, as Mahaney himself asserts. But it should be something that we consistently seek to demonstrate in our own lives. And certainly, that will mean regularly seeking the grace of God for just such a purpose.

4. Celebrate godly character.

Offering what strikes me as an extremely wise practical recommendation, Maheny writes:

“If you’re a parent, don’t celebrate anything more than you celebrate godly character in your children. I commend and encourage my son for academic achievement or an athletic award, but we break out into real celebration around my house only when there’s a demonstration of humility, servanthood, or godly character” (160).

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