Twenty-some years ago, I attended a week-long Christian conference that had a lasting impact on my life.
During one of the morning sessions, the speaker talked about two qualities, or virtues: magnanimity and humility. The speaker said that Christians should seek these virtues. Since then, being magnanimous and humble have become very important to my character development, especially when relating with others.
At the time, I did not know the meaning of “magnanimous,” and I also had a distorted view of what it meant to be humble. But then, with the help of a dictionary and the Bible, I was able to learn how to practice magnanimity—to be generous and forgiving, especially to those who do not agree with me. I also learned to practice humility—to be humble before God first, so that I can be humble before men.
The words of 1 Peter 3:8-9 offer a great instruction, something I really want to follow. However, knowing what I should do does not mean that I can, or that I will do it. I have learned that it is only by God’s grace that I can be magnanimous and humble. Without the indwelling presence of Christ, these two qualities are an impossibility. It is much too easy to notice a speck in my friend’s eye without realizing I have a log in mine. I need God to shine His light on my inner heart to see I am desperate for His mercy first before I can forgive and be generous to my brother or sister whom I think has wronged me. There were times when I thought I had arrived and had become “perfect”, but would soon find myself upset and agitated over an unkind word directed at me and immediately want to retaliate. It would take so much effort to be magnanimous, yet it was so easy to slip back to my unforgiving self. Then, in God’s mercy, I would be reminded again and again that I cannot do it by my own strength; it is only when I humble myself before God that I can begin to overcome.
Is magnanimity and humility also what you desire to build in your character? May you find favor before God as you surrender in humility, and may you find favor before men as you generously give yourself to them.
Written by Anita Chan. Artwork by Carol Li