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Inspiration for Today’s Devotional: “Every Little Thing She Does”
As I’ve noted in my reviews, Starlight Glimmer seems to “get off easy” for a lot of the stuff she does; whether accidental or intentional. What I thought was rather surprising for this episode was the first character who ended up holding a grudge was Pinkie Pie. (It was over cake, of all things, but ignoring that for now.) But what I keyed on for today’s devotional was something that occurred later. Starlight earlier admitted that she only wanted to do things that showed off her strengths and aptitudes. She hates doing anything that shows off her shortcomings, her anxiety, or her ineptitude, because she measures everything including her relationship status with others at how good she can do things and not by the emotional connections involved. Ironically, at least for her, it’s only when she takes Twilight Sparkle’s advice and lets herself make something of an embarrassment of herself trying to bake a cake with Pinkie Pie that she not only gets her forgiveness but ends up connecting with her.
While it’s sort of subordinate to the main lesson of the episode, it serves as a nice little reminder that a little humility can go a long way. Perhaps even better than showing off what we’re good at.
There are a number of issues in English translations of the Bible from the root words, as they don’t always have the exact same meaning that one was trying to convey in the modern sense. One of the more noteworthy culprits is the term “meek”. It’s used importantly in two passages, the more well-known being Matthew 5:5 (“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.”), and the other in Numbers 12:3 (“Now the man Moses was very meek, more than all people who were on the face of the earth.” ESV). In modern English, meek is usually synonymous with shy, timid, withdrawn, and easily cowed and compelled through threat and force. The impression that is given from someone who is “meek” is someone who is “wimpy”.
Looking at Matthew 5:5 it might be easy to draw the same conclusion, but looking at Numbers 12:3 it’s easier to point out the mistranslation. The phrase is used to refer to Moses, saying he was the meekest man alive on Earth. Well, going by the modern English connotation of “meek”, that’s obviously not true if you know anything about Moses. Moses was bold enough to appear before the Pharaoh of Egypt on multiple occasions and proclaim against him in most of them, all while the Pharaoh was in a position to have him executed on the spot. He also proclaimed the words of God to thousands of Israelites time and again when many times it was met with hostility or even threats of death, and led them through natural disasters, divine encounters, and hostile nations attacking to the edge of the Promised Land over the course of 40 years. While I’m sure he had some assistance from God, someone who was very timid, quiet, and impressionable couldn’t have done this.
In this sense, that word refers to being humble. Some translations even directly change it to say that Moses was the most humble man on Earth, and in that context that makes sense as in this passage Moses is being falsely accused of using his status as Prophet of God to set himself higher than everyone in the community. It was pointing out how Moses was never self-interested or thought of himself as higher than any other Israelite, and the Bible attests to this. Many times Moses diminished himself, pointing out his own inadequacies and fears to God whenever he was called to do something (“Moses said to the Lord, “Pardon your servant, Lord. I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue.”” Exodus 4:10; “But Moses said, “Pardon your servant, Lord. Please send someone else.”” Exodus 4:13). And it was the accusation of one of his own countrymen that he wanted to become king of the Israelites that drove him to abandon his comfortable lifestyle among Egyptian royalty and take up the meager life of a herder for decades (Exodus 2:14). Yet in spite of being humble, Moses ended up being one of the most important historical figures of the ancient world and doing amazing things that changed human history forever.
A lot of people suffer, in one area or another, the same affliction that Starlight Glimmer went through. They feel the need to only ever show off their “good side”, or only talk about things they’re comfortable with, or always make themselves look like they’re at their best. There’s a number of reasons for that. In Starlight’s case, it was because she didn’t know how else to interact with people. For others, it’s from a mindset of perfectionism–the idea that our worth is measured only by our ability to please everyone. For still others, it’s an esteem issue–if they can’t be “externally great” then they’ll focus on their own deficiencies and obsess over them.
The problem is even if we acknowledge that being meek and being humble are two different things, the latter connotation isn’t too admired in society either. We have the idea that it’s the big, bold, loud, and daring who shape the world. The ones who proverbially “make waves”. Who speak out fiercely as overt forces for change on a national level. The people who seem perfect in every way and everything they do is a raging success. This, however, is an illusion. No one is perfect. No one has ever been perfect. No one can do everything perfectly either. Yet the sides that we see of other people, especially celebrities or public figures, including those who do altruistic work or try to improve the world, is often only one side. And because we only see the good side, that’s how we identify that person, and how we end up judging and measuring ourselves by that standard.
I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve done this but I’m sure everyone else has felt the same way at some point. Can you recall the last time you heard of some amazing missionary, or some incredible witness, or even someone who managed to organize a massive community event or charity…and you thought to yourself: “if only I was more like that person”? Or when in the company of others who seem to be swapping stories of their own goodness, generosity, or experiences, do you find yourself choosing your own words carefully to try and make your own successes look better and your own shortcomings look smaller?
There are good reasons why God desires that we be humble. For one, the opposite of humility is pride, and pride leads to a whole host of problems from alienating people; to causing us to resort to any means to maintain that pride; to blaming external factors or others for anything we do wrong; to swearing off our dependence on God and others in the first place. But for another, being humble means you are being honest: with yourself, with God and with others. It means you acknowledge where you are deficient or fall short in life; if unchangeable you accept it as a part of who you are, and if changeable you accept it as something that needs to be worked on. It means you are willing to show your true self rather than a fake face hiding behind perfectionism, pride, or the need to be someone else. And that means that you are fully open to God’s love, as he accepts you for everything you are, and you can fully acknowledge the love of others who accept you with everything you are. It also means “selling yourself”, as a normal, average, flawed human being and admitting the same. And admitting one’s own weaknesses is the first step toward overcoming them.
My message for this devotional is to take a page from Starlight Glimmer: perhaps be humble enough to show those around you the sides of your life you’re not so good at or the parts of you that aren’t quite as perfect as you would like them to be. You might find you’re in good company.
Suggested Prayer: “Lord God, thank you again that you accept me as I am, both in terms of strengths and weaknesses. Please help me to always be honest with you, with others, and myself. That includes not putting up a false front or hiding behind pride, but being open with my inadequacies as well as my aptitudes. And if I have been hiding behind a wall of pride myself, please help me to pursue the kind of “Godly humility” that Lord Jesus preached. Gratefully in Jesus’ Name, Amen.”