People complain about Bad Drivers all the time – how the roads are filled with them, and they make driving miserable for everyone else. The surprising thing is that hardly anyone actually claims to be one. In the United States, on self-reporting surveys, 93% of us claim to be above-average drivers who are more skillful and safe than most other drivers. Beside the fact that it is statistically impossible for 93% of drivers to be above-average, it illustrates the enduring temptation that all of us face to be self-serving in the way we evaluate ourselves compared to others.
In psychological terms it is called Positive Attribution Bias. It basically means overestimating our own strengths while exaggerating the weaknesses of others. And research indicates that we do it a lot. For instance…
- 70% of high school students consider themselves to be above-average in leadership ability, while 2% report themselves as below-average.
- 89% of college professors rank themselves as above-average teachers.
- Most people report to be above-average in their morality, saying that they are at least twice as likely to keep the Ten Commandments as the average person.
- Most young people say that they have superior relationship skills, with 25% saying that they consider themselves to be in the top 1% of those who are relationally gifted, and 60% saying they are in the top 10%.
The math just doesn’t add up! But it happens time and time again. When it comes to socially desirable traits “most of us perceive ourselves to be above-average in intelligence, friendship, parenting, social skills, work ethic, and managing money.” (Mark R. McMinn, psychologist and author)
It might be easy to chalk all this up as one more indication of a modern-day culture with a narcissistic bent, but the Bible would point us deeper down. In fact this is merely indicative of an enduring human condition: the tendency to over-estimate our own virtues and strengths against those of others. These two things are at the very heart of our epic and lifelong struggle for HUMILITY.
Biblical Practice #1: Push back against the natural inclination to over-estimate ourselves
“Because of the privilege and authority God has given me, I give each of you this warning: Don’t think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves…” (Romans 12:3, NLT)
Biblical Practice #2: Push back against the natural inclination to under-value others
“Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves.” (Philippians 2:3, NLT)
These two incredibly simple practices, direct us to flip our natural bent for bias by extending to others the benefit of the doubt in estimation, while consciously submitting our self-evaluations to an honest and sober reality check.
Here’s my very best, practical definition for HUMILITY: I accept all that God has to say about me – all of the good, and all of the bad – no arguments.
HUMILITY doesn’t mean pushing yourself down to something less than you really are. In fact, one half of HUMILITY is freely accepting in yourself all of the amazingly positive ways that God has uniquely designed you with gifts, talents, and strengths. (And who knows? One of those strengths may be your skills as a clearly, above-average driver!) Humility just means embracing these strengths with a sense of honesty and moderation – and especially when stacking them against the strengths of others around you.
HUMILITY is about fully embracing the areas of strength in your life, reflecting the glory back to the God who gave them to you, deploying them to bless the world that He loves so much, and doing it all in harmony with the other incredibly gifted and talented people who surround you.
So, be careful on those roads out there today. There are some bad drivers out there. And while I’m sure you aren’t one of them, in the words of Saint Paul just “don’t think that you are better than you really are.”