White Flag


I remember one instance when I was a child, my parents took me to see a rodeo and at one point my mom gave me her nice camera with a roll of film in it (Not digital! I must be getting old.).  She allowed me to try taking a few pictures and she specifically instructed me to only take three pictures and no more.  Film is limited of course, so she didn’t want me to waste it.  So, naturally, I proceeded to take my three pictures, then four, then five and six… then all of a sudden the camera started making noise and rewinding the film!  Oops, that got me caught.  My mom knew immediately that I had taken more than three pictures because I used up the rest of the film.  I was embarrassed and felt so bad about it.  It made an impression, obviously, which is why I remember the incident.  I instantly had to own up to my mistake, there was no excuse for what I did.

I made another mistake while driving today.  As opposed to my first example though, this mistake wasn’t intentional, but a mistake is a mistake, and you know right away when you’ve been caught in the act.  It was just a stupid point where I zoned out while driving and almost missed my turn.  Technically I did miss it, but I was only past the turn off by a few feet and I caught myself right as I was passing it.  So, I slammed on the breaks, I knew I wasn’t in heavy traffic.  There was no one behind me, so I decided to just back up in the lane and make the turn.  I know, any moment now you’re expecting an accident or cop to enter the scene.  That didn’t happen.  This is really just a moment of feeling stupid.  I started backing up in my lane and saw that other cars were coming toward me from the road onto which I was trying to turn.  My mind flashed to what they were probably seeing from their own driver seat.  Some stupid driver backing the wrong way right in front of them to turn onto a street she had just barely passed.  I must have looked ridiculous and possibly like an idiot.  Still, I knew as soon as I saw those other cars that my mistake was well known to others now and I felt a little embarrassed, even in front of strangers.  I got over it pretty quickly, but in order to do so, I had to swallow my pride and own up to the fact that I made a mistake.

Being humble means putting up your white flag and surrendering your right to defend yourself.


There is something about making mistakes, poor decisions, or looking foolish that irks us.  We get defensive, offended, even strike back if we feel accused or caught.  We do or say whatever makes us feel justified and in the right.  We are the good guy, and everyone else is in the wrong.  We’re just misunderstood or treated unfairly.  At least, that’s what we tell ourselves.  We have a natural disposition to trying to place blame on anyone or anything but ourselves.  Why are we so uncomfortable with being imperfect?  Why do we always want people to think of us as never wrong or never making mistakes?  Why is it so important for us to feel right, justified, or superior in our behavior and intentions?  Why do we seem to fight tooth and nail to avoid owning up to our actions and wrongs?

I think I can sum up the answer in one word; PRIDE.  The desire to be right, or superior, or justified, or respected is all because of pride – the desire to be better than others.  We all do it.  Some have fought harder to control it than others, but none of us can completely escape pride.  It is a constant battle.  We have this impression that humility is too uncomfortable or somehow makes us weak or “less” than others in some way.  Really, we don’t like humility because being humble means acknowledging our shortcomings and flaws, and we don’t like to look at those ourselves, much less let anyone else see them.  To acknowledge that you are not perfect, that you make mistakes, that you sometimes choose poorly or act foolishly, that you don’t know everything or can’t do something makes people feel vulnerable, insufficient, and dependent on others for help and correction.  That is a hard thing to admit and even harder to be comfortable with that.

To be humble is to be open to learning and growing.  To recognize that you don’t have all the answers, all the abilities, and you don’t live a perfect life or make perfect decisions all the time.  It is being willing to own up to those less-than-desirable traits, experiences and choices and accept the consequences of them, any correction needed, and apply what you learned from them in order to improve yourself and avoid future problems of that type.  Being humble means putting up your white flag and surrendering your right to defend yourself.  It is submitting yourself to criticism, training and corrective actions.  It takes great courage to put up that white flag and choose humility over pride and defensiveness.  Humility is a far greater show of inner strength than pride will ever be, and far more worthy of respect.

Make a daring move that maybe no one would expect next time you make a mistake or bad decision; show humility and take responsibility for your actions.  You just might blow some people’s minds by setting such a powerful example of integrity and maturity.  Then make it a habit for every mistake.  You might be surprised how much you will grow and improve personally.

Proverbs 18:12 (NASB)

12 Before destruction the heart of man is haughty,
but humility goes before honor.

Proverbs 11:2 (NASB)

2 When pride comes, then comes dishonor,
But with the humble is wisdom.


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One thought on “White Flag

  1. Yet another fantastic post exploring the depths of a concept often misunderstood or unjustly avoided. I have struggled with humility, as I am sure most people have. The biggest issue with me, I feel, is something a little different than what you talked about. I don’t care so much about being better than others or always being right. My biggest issue is that I don’t want to cause pain or difficulties to anyone else. I hate making mistakes because it means that I have caused someone else trouble. Those mistakes that only affect me, I am glad to own up to and learn from and even go to those more wise than myself for correction. I justify, make excuses and try to shift blame when the things I have done wrong have consequences for other people. But even that in itself could be a form of pride. Not that I want to be better than anyone else, but that I want to be seen as “good” or “helpful”. I have an image of myself that I want people to see. It is the person I want to be, but I am not there yet. It is funny how we want people to see us for who we want to become. No one can see anything more or less than what is actually there, yet we get defensive when they don’t see the illusion that we are trying to project.
    Yet we are all flawed, so why would anyone think less of anyone else when those flaws are revealed. No one is perfect. And as you said: it is more courageous to own up to and admit that you are flawed than to hide them in selfish pride. We may all come to understand and accept each other a little more when we are willing to admit to flaws and accept other flawed people.