I find these definitions from CJ Mahaney’s book Humility very helpful:
Humility: Honestly assessing ourselves in light of God’s holiness and our sinfulness.
Pride: Aspiring to the state and position of God and refusing to acknowledge our dependence on him.
In Creed or Chaos?, Dorothy Sayers has a chapter where she points out that most people outside the church would have listed the most important Christian virtues something like this: “respectability; childishness; mental timidity; dullness; sentimentality; censoriousness; and depression of the spirits.”
In other words, many thought that Christians were dull, judgmental, and lacking passion. Caring more about not rocking the boat and being safe than anything else.
Sayers argues that this perspective (along with several others on various doctrines that she humorously delineated) is wrong. But the fault lied with the Christians, not with the world:
I cannot help feeling that as a statement of Christian orthodoxy, these replies are inadequate, if not misleading. But I also cannot help feeling that they do fairly accurately represent what many people take Christian orthodoxy to be, and for this state of affairs I am inclined to blame the orthodox.
Whenever an average Christian is represented in a novel or a play, he is pretty sure to be shown practicing one or all of the Seven Deadly Virtues listed above, and I am afraid that this is the impression made by the average Christian upon the world at large.
Perhaps we are not following Christ all the way or in quite the right spirit. . . .
Somehow or other, and with the best intentions, we have shown the world the typical Christian in the likeness of a crashing and rather ill-natured bore — and this in the Name of One who assuredly never bored a soul in those thirty-three years during which He passed through this world like a flame.
I think that as Christians, we have gotten much better in this regard since Sayer’s day. But this is still a good reminder.
Perhaps we can put it like this. Many people, such as John Piper, have done a good job of pointing out that God is not boring. Some, like Russell Moore, have gone so far to point out that boring preaching is basically a sin. I think both of these points are exactly right. And we can go further: If preachers shouldn’t bore people with their preaching, then Christians shouldn’t bore people with their lives, either.
Since God is not boring, neither should we be boring. To live dull lives that lack passion is, I would argue, to give people the wrong idea about God. It is to imply that the God whom we serve is boring, just like us. So we shouldn’t be boring. In fact, to be a boring Christian is probably a sin — the sin, as Sayers points out elsewhere, of sloth. For “sloth” doesn’t ultimately mean laziness, but rather means living a life without passion and energy.
So be diligent not to be a boring, overly timid Christian. Avoid the sin of sloth.
Rick Warren, in The Purpose Driven Church:
You may have heard it said, ‘If it can’t be done with excellence, don’t do it.’ Well, Jesus never said that! The truth is, almost everything we do is done poorly when we first start doing it—that’s how we learn. At Saddleback Church, we practice the ‘good enough’ principle: It doesn’t have to be perfect for God to use and bless it. We would rather involve thousands of regular folks in ministry than have a perfect church run by a few elites.
This is good counsel. Sometimes, in the quest to make sure we do something perfectly, we end up never getting to it all. We say to ourselves that we’ll do it “someday” because we don’t think we’ll be able to do it well right now. So we plan to wait until conditions are better, or until we have everything lined up and perfect. And then we never get to it.
Or, we might think we’ll never be able to do a certain thing well, and so we never even plan on trying — even though there is a clear need and we could do something. We say “I’m not able to do it up to the standard at which it should be done, so I won’t do it at all.”
It’s far better to realize that “less-than-perfect service is always better than the best intention.” If there is something you feel like you ought to do, get started now, with what you have. And, ironically, you’ll probably find that in the doing of it you will get better than if you had waited.
I’m not saying that there is not a time to prepare. There is — and sometimes preparation can be a long process. But if the reason you are holding off is because you have an unrealistic view of perfection, when you do have the ability to get moving now, then you should get moving even if it won’t be perfect!