The two builders: an ancient lesson in humility

I have found great value in reviewing a variety of ancient literature. I’m inviting a discussion on the value that you have found in any of the writings of the New Testament (as in specific segments). Feel free to comment on the verses that I cite or to cite others.

Before I mention a few verses, I notice that a common factor between them is humility. For me, I learned early in my life to be very competitive for social approval and validation. I learned to attempt to project levels of competence beyond my actual competence.

How does that relate to humility? A simple, natural approach to learning would be just to be open to learning. There would be no obsessive resistance to other people being aware of my actual levels of knowledge or skill. I would want appropriate challenges, not things far too boring or far too difficult. If other people had input (warnings or suggestions), I would be totally open (at least if I had some confidence in the expertise and goodwill of that person).

At some point though, I developed a kind of paranoia or anxiety about other people criticizing my abilities. The flip side of that is a kind of addiction to getting compliments (or congratulations).

In retrospect, I recall a very basic fear. I feared abandonment (and craved reassurance). To some extent, all that may be a universal concern, especially for young people.

So, I did not want be to left out. Plus, a great way of getting some people’s attention was to claim to be better than them at something.

As a child, I started to think of how could I get to be “the glory” of my parents (or my teacher)? How could I contribute to their social status?

I would learn what was considered good and what was considered bad, then attempt to conform my actions and accomplishments to those standards. Further, I would present myself as “someone who evidences the excellence of my parents” (and resist any claims that I was in any way ever a potential source of disappointment to them).

Again, I think that most everyone experiences that kind of thing to some extent. However, some of us are more obsessive and anxious about these issues than others. Further, over time, some of us shift from a focus on “bringing glory to our parents” to being in overt rebellion toward them.

That reminds me of a few bible verses right there. “Honor thy parents” is one. Another is “I did not come to bring peace to the earth, but a sword…. to divide a man against his father… against his own household…. whoever loves a parent or a child more than they love me is not worthy of me.”

That is from Matthew 10:34-37. See

However, those are not among the verses that I have found so far to be the most valuable. One of those is quite famous: “rather than attempt to remove a speck from the perceptiveness of someone else, remove the log from your own perceptiveness.”

Well, let me just pause for a moment to note that on occasion I might have attempted to remove a possible speck from someone else’s perceptiveness (and yes even while my own perceptiveness was perhaps just slightly limited). Also, sometimes I politely offered to remove their speck.

But mostly I aggressively and condescendingly condemned their specks. I ridiculed and harassed people for offending me by either (1) failing to display sufficient loyalty to popular ideas or (2) failing to display sufficient contempt for popular ideas.

Maybe I should give some background to all that. In my efforts to be the treasured glory of my elders, I resisted the idea that I could ever be naive. However, if by some amazing sequence of events there was ever a reasonable doubt about my absolute mastery of any subject whatsoever, then that would be shameful.

Is it really so shameful not to be a master of all things? Not at all. However, after years of hysterically and fanatically defending mainstream hysteria and fanaticism, a common response is to then maintain the basic behavioral pattern of hysteria and fanaticism, but just in devotion to a new glory: the glory of shaming mainstream versions of hysteria and fanaticism.

Was I still a hysterical fanatic? Sure… but at least I was no longer shamefully a hysterical fanatic of the mainstream type. I graduated to being an *independent* hysterical fanatic.

The short version of that story is that being an *independent* hysterical fanatic can involve pointing out a whole lot of specks in the perceptiveness of others. It can be something of a “full-time commitment.”

However, I would occasionally notice that anti-hysteria hysteria was just not as much fun as I might have hoped. Fortunately, I was no longer obsessed with bringing glory to my parents. On the other hand, constantly heaping contempt at mainstream ideas and institutions… just was not especially rewarding.

Basically, it repulsed people. In other words, it led toward less socializing (more privacy), which I do greatly value.

However, in recent years, I just overtly value my privacy. That is much simpler than putting so much energy in to repulsing “shameful fanatics.”

I appreciate that I now live a life in which I have the discretion to withdraw toward privacy “more or less whenever.” So, for that, I am quite grateful.

The shift in my life circumstances has involved many other people. Day after day, I experiment with rediscovering and communicating my appreciation for them (and by the way one person in particular comes to mind).

Also, I am repeatedly grateful about the warnings against vanity, naïveté, hysteria, and fanaticism that I first found many decades ago in the Bible. For instance, in Mark 7:6-8, Jesus explicitly quotes Isaiah’s warnings on these subjects from the Old Testament. (See )

Over and over, warnings about contempt are made in the New Testament. Occasionally, I witness contempt on display (including displays of anti-contempt contempt on Facebook). The more that I witness contempt, the more grateful I am, including for the massive reduction in contempt that I have experienced in recent decades.

So, before I conclude, one more section of the New Testament that I respect a lot (on the subject of humility) is the parable of the two builders. One builder had good intentions and was sincere and certainly committed, but yet was naive, inexperienced, and foolish. Another builder knew that it was worth a lot of extra work to clear away the loose sand and dig down to the bedrock to build a house on that rock.

If you do not know the rest of that story, search online for “the wise builder” and then notice what happens to each of the two homes “when the storm comes.” I will move on to say more about the metaphor of clearing away what is on the surface.

Regarding all the presumptions and biases that I have been programmed to internalize, I respect them. I am humble about all the time that I have put in to “houses built on sand.”

I have defended mainstream dogmas and doctrines and hysterias and fanaticisms. That was my vanity (my concern for receiving social glory).

I have also competed to evidence how I was so gloriously collaborative (a “good” person). I have gloriously (vainly) displayed my contempt for competitiveness, although actually my contempt was itself the extreme of social competitiveness. I recognize that now.

I have certainly displayed contempt for some of the same mainstream idealism and pseudo-science that I used to vigorously defend. That was also vanity.

Is an obsession with social reassurance like building a house on sand? I get the connection.

As I divest from addictive habits of attracting reassurance that I am socially good (glorious), I get closer to the bedrock. As I stop resisting criticisms and complaints, I get to experience a hugely rewarding thing called humiliation (a.k.a humility).

On a foundation of respecting perceptiveness, I am grateful to find new layers of bias in my own patterns. I release my old hysterical “anti-bias bias.” I have biases. Some biases I respect as useful and some biased I question as potentially “optional.”

I build a completely different kind of “house.” Storms come (as in challenging developments). Some people panic and display contempt and then vigorously resist criticism or unfamiliar ideas.

I can relate to all of that. Unfamiliar ideas can be confusing.

For those who worship traditions and dogmas, unfamiliar ideas can disturb foundations built on sand. For those who passionately display their contempt for various traditions and dogmas, I can respect the intensity of their distress.

What if I dig down below vanity and learned persona and programmed pseudo-science. Will I find some solid bedrock on which to build a calm stability?

One who is already humble cannot be humiliated (or manipulated with flattery). Those who desperately grip the chains of vanity will struggle with denying their vanities until they have to good fortune to have their vanities collapse.

Ideally, may your vanities suddenly collapse in to a pile of laughter (or at least giggling). However, if your vanities in any way seem appealing to you, I totally respect that. Perhaps one morning you will wake up and some do those old familiar vanities will simply be… boring.

Intense repulsion toward vanity might be a sign of something. Hysterically displaying contempt for vanity might be a sign of something, too.

In the world of introspection, who is best suited to dig down through the sand of my biases and vanities to the bedrock of perceptiveness? Should I blame my parents or the teachers of my youth for failing to keep me free of vanity? I think it might be quite hilarious to attempt to blame them (at least now that so many of my old biases have been disillusioned). I will be sure to let you know how that turns out for me.

Beware of those who are convinced that they have no further capacity for naïveté. Beware of such extreme vanity. Respect humility.


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