“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.” (Philippians 2:3)
Our human nature tends to want to give the appearance that we are strong, smart, capable of handling things ourselves and not dependent upon the help of others. This is true in most areas of life and particularly in the workplace.
After having worked as an attorney for over thirty years for large international oil company, I was asked to take an assignment overseeing policy and governmental compliance for our environmental, health and safety operations. The staff of this organization was made up entirely of engineers and people with technical and scientific backgrounds, a knowledge base in which I was severely lacking.
Shortly after assuming this assignment, one of our audit teams had discovered several operational deficiencies in one our African affiliates that was responsible for producing a significant percentage of our crude oil production worldwide – over 600 thousand barrels a day, all offshore. Because of the significance of this affiliate’s operations and its contribution to the overall profitability of the company, the audit findings became quite controversial.
The management of the affiliate attacked both the findings and the competence of our audit team.
Thus, it became my role to defend the audit team and their findings before senior management involving technical engineering issues for which I had little expertise. Acknowledging my lack of knowledge in this area, I had to ask our staff for help – to literally educate me on each of the technical issues so I could overcome the arguments of the affiliate engineers.
With the staff’s assistance, we were able to persuade management to accept the findings of the audit team and their expertise.
As a result, several changes in this affiliate’s operations were implemented that likely avoided a potential accident costing the company millions of dollars and serious harm to affected employees. We may remember BP’s Deepwater Horizon platform that exploded in the Gulf of Mexico a few years ago, killing 11 workers and costing BP billions of dollars to appreciate the potential impact.
Ironically, acknowledging our limitations is not a sign of weakness, but rather a sign of strength. We are confessing the truth of who we are and what we are capable of doing and not doing. As Jesus said to St. Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Cor. 12:9)
When we acknowledge we need help, we are humbling ourselves before God and others. Proverbs tells us that the Lord mocks the proud and gives grace to the humble. (3:34) Jesus says, “Learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart.” (Mt. 11:29)
God, the creator of all that exists, performed one of the greatest acts of humility and love of all time when he became an embryo in Mary’s womb to become one of his created in the person of Jesus.
Shouldn’t we be willing to humble ourselves in acknowledging our needs and seeking the help of others?