Humility is an interesting attribute of humanity because its presence (or lack of presence) has a profound impact on every aspect of human existence. Humility is able to impact personal learning and growth, human interaction, and societal progress. As a result, when pressed about the topic few will disagree with the need for an infusion of humility into our confrontational society. Have you considered though, the need and impact of humility in your reading? If humility has the capacity to influence every aspect of one’s life, then we must consider that it has the means to influence our reading as well. Consider then, that there are great differences between a prideful reader and a humble reader and why we need to be humble readers.
A Prideful Reader
Those who read pridefully often manifest a different demeanor and attributes during their reading. While the spoken intention for reading a particular book may include the possibility of personal renovation, the heart attitude is inclined more towards personal satisfaction and it will be manifested by the way the person reads the book. Before looking at a prideful reader, we must consider three primary motivations for reading a book.
- Personal Renovation: I would submit that the primary reading each of us should be doing is for personal renovation – which of course begins by reading Scripture. We look to authors that cultivate in us a biblical perspective and worldview in order to spur personal growth and changes towards godliness.
- Personal Reflection: Sometimes reading is not all about growth, but can be lean towards understanding. Sometimes, we read books to understand more about the world we live in by reading such genres like biographies that expose the rationale behind certain mentalities, or delving into books of history that explain the past and how we arrived to our current era. Certainly, these can sometimes result in personal renovation, but it may not necessarily be the main objective.
- Personal Relaxation: Finally, we read simply to relax. Not escape, but to relax as we wind down for the evening or when we wake up to ready for our day. Sometimes, we simply need reading that is not so involved that it causes more weariness to engage it.
Certainly, there are other reasons to read, but the majority of our reasons can be defined by these three objectives.
The person who reads pridefully automatically impairs those three objectives. When one reads from an attitude of arrogance the individual comes to the book looking for areas of dispute and disagreement. This individual will often look specifically for books that affirms the positions, emotions, and mindset that he or she already holds. Only when that criteria is met will the reader seek to apply what is being read. There is a difference here between a prideful reader and a humble reader, even if that is not seen on the surface. The prideful reader is not really seeking renovation of a heart attitude, but rather justification for heart attitudes. This attitude is also quick to diminish the experiences of others, not evaluating the experience in light of absolute truth, but only in light of one’s own personal worldview. Such reading behavior amplifies stress because the reader is constantly looking for ways to disagree.
A Humble Reader
The humble reader in contrast to the prideful reader affirms the three primary objectives of reading by the manner in which he/she reads. This is because the attitude of the reader is different. Instead of a demeanor of criticalness, the humble reader comes to a book with an attitude of awareness. Tainted by sin, the one who reads humbly recognizes his/her imperfections that may create both a wrong mentality and a wrong attitude. Therefore, the reader looks to others for wisdom as one who seeks godly counsel from those who have gone before. The attitude of wanting to learn allows the reader to read casually, with expectation of reflection, relaxation, and information.
This does not mean that the humble reader engages books without discernment. Humble reading requires that we read objectively, but critically in such a way that is not about merely proving the author wrong but about ensuring we stay within the bounds of God’s truth. In these instances, we could say that the humble reader reads with a softened heart that desires personal growth, but relies on the Holy Spirit for both conviction and change.
Noting the type of reader you are can indicate the type of person you are. Therefore, simply from a personal growth standpoint, knowing how we read is important. For our purposes here though, humility impacts how we will read and engage a book.
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