Even if you know it all, you still have a lot to learn

Yesterday, I saw something on Facebook that made me stop and think. That doesn’t usually happen. Facebook is full of what folks like to call “link bait,” which are those stories that litter your newsfeed with sensationalized headlines, but this was different. It was a guest blog post by an author: The Most Important Characteristic of a Good Writer.

I wondered immediately what that would be. At first, my mind went to craft, because a good writer has to know his/her craft. By that, I mean you have to know how to plot. You have to know how to design characters and setting. You have to know the rules and when it’s appropriate to break them. But I clicked on the link anyway because I wanted to find out if I were “a good writer,” because I’m good at all that stuff. And, just being honest, validation is always nice.

But as it turns out, the most important quality for a good writer has nothing to do with craft. Sure, it’s important, but it’s not the most important. According to this post, the most important characteristic for a good writer is humility.

Yeah, but what about character and setting and plot and knowing just how much back story to put in? What about dialogue? What about grammar and spelling and sentence structure and vocabulary?

You can be great at all those things, and you can even write a great book. But you won’t ever be a great writer until you learn to approach your writing–your whole life, really–with humility.

529092_35688940Today’s verse is James 3:13.

If you are wise and understand God’s ways, prove it by living an honorable life, doing good works with the humility that comes from wisdom.

Writers are such a fascinating group of people. If you know a writer and call them a friend, you’re fortunate. Writers don’t really make friends easily, which is sad because they need people. Yes, we all need each other, but writers rely on other people more than the average worker. Why? Well, someone has to buy their books. Someone has to read what they write, otherwise they won’t make it in the market.

For me, it’s a difficult line to walk. Being friends with writers can be hard for me because I write a certain way, and other writers don’t always like that. And I have to find the middle ground between doing what I believe is right and listening to another writer’s opinion, which may or may not be correct. And I’m not always good at that, but that takes humility. And when I listen to another person talk about writing, I always learn something. Always.

But I’ve been writing for a long time. I could probably even be approaching what some would call “a successful writer.” And while that’s always been my dream, I’m noticing that it comes along with an increase in pride, which is something I’ve struggled with my whole life.

No, it’s not wrong to believe in what you’re doing or to understand realistically that you do know what you’re talking about. But it’s always wrong to assume you know more than someone else. It’s always wrong to discount someone else’s opinion simply because you don’t agree with it. Now, that doesn’t mean you have to live my someone else’s opinion, but you should never ever treat their opinion like it doesn’t matter. (If they don’t care enough to be kind about what they say to you, I recommend discarding their opinion, though. Because there are opinions meant to help and opinions meant to tear down, and nobody deserves to be torn down.)

And that’s hard. It’s even harder when they disagree with you. But that takes humility–recognizing that even though you know a lot, you still have a lot to learn.

The world tells us that if we live humble lives, we’ll be trampled. We’ll be eaten alive. We’ll never make it. And, honestly, there’s some truth in that. If you live humbly and work humbly and speak humbly, especially in the corporate world, you’ll be torn up, broken down, and left for dead on the side of the figurative highway of life. But remember, success doesn’t come from us. Success comes from God.

What I love about today’s verse is that it calls us to live by humility that comes from wisdom. Humility must come from wisdom, otherwise you will fold in on yourself and never step out and never stand up. There is a time to be bold. There is a time to stand up and be counted. And there is a time to demonstrate the gifts and talents that God has given you for His glory. And insecurity, which so often masquerades a humility, will prevent you from ever taking that step.

Wisdom comes from following Jesus. Trust Him, do what He says is right, and He will give you the wisdom you need to make a truly humble choice. God promises over and over throughout Scripture that if we are humble and put others above ourselves, He will exalt us when the time is right.

Be confident when you know what you’re doing, but don’t ever scorn someone else’s kind opinion, even if you disagree with it. You can always learn something.