Humility: Some Churches Practice Foot Washing
Strange thoughts come to me in the shower. This morning while washing my feet, I thought, “Some churches practice foot washing.”
My second thought was, “No way is anyone washing my feet.” They’re ugly. Then I had an uncomfortable thought.
“It takes humility to let someone serve you.” I decided to Google, “Foot washing in the Bible.”
I found a list of 15 denominations that engage in the practice of foot washing, and I read an unusual story in John’s Gospel. Jesus washed his follower’s feet. I’m having thoughts about humility.
The easy part of humility is serving others.
Every great story has a hero. Al Pachino plays Lt. Col. Frank Slade in, “Scent of a Woman.” The hero in the movie is a High School kid, named Charlie Simms played by Chris O’donell. Charlie gives Lt. Col. Slade a reason to keep living.
I want to be the one who gives help, not the one who receives it.
The hard part of humility is being served.
“All the giving in the world won’t bring success, won’t create the results you want, unless you also make yourself willing and able to receive in like measure.” Bob Burg and John David Mann in The Go-Giver
Team members love to please leaders they admire. When you let others serve you, you humble yourself and you elevate them.
- “Could you lend me a hand?”
- Seek input. “What do you think?”
- Affirm service. “You helped me a lot.”
You model humility when you serve others. And you model humility when you let them serve you.
Interestingly, after washing their feet, Jesus doesn’t say, “Wash my feet.” He says, “You ought to wash each other’s feet.” He turns them toward each other.
Why is it hard to let people serve you?
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We are taught to be independent. We also get turned down sometimes when we ask for help. These things make it difficult to reach out. Someone once told me that I was being selfish for not accepting help because it denies someone else the opportunity to do something nice for you. I’ve tried to keep that in mind.
So true, Karen. Also, when we’re new in an organization it’s better to be known as a person who gives a lot of help, not a person who needs help.
Humility plays a HUGE part in effective leadership!! Thank you for the reminder. Well said, “All the giving in the world won’t bring success, won’t create the results you want, unless you also make yourself willing and able to receive in like measure.”
Thanks Rosanne. Love Bob and John’s book, The Go-Giver. Their work has helped me in this area.
Hi Dan. Never thought I’d see foot washing as a topic in a leadership blog! My teenage and college years were at a church with foot washing. It is still something I talk about today as it impacted my life immensely. It was an amazing thing to wash the gnarled feet of elder men who poured wisdom and time into me. Respecting and acknowledging the places those feet took those men, the things they learned, and people they helped is beyond words. The reciprocal was true as you knew where your young feet had been when presenting them to others which made you ponder past decisions and next steps. Thanks for pointing out both sides of the foot washing equation. In today’s society this may seem very weird, but this physical act is something I would recommend to everyone at least once in your life regardless of beliefs.
I’m so glad you stopped in today, Rob. The idea of the ritual of foot washing fascinates me, but I seriously doubt if I ever experience it. I’ll learn from the experience of others. 🙂
Again, thanks for sharing your reflections on this topic.
This made me think of something my pastor told me years ago, “Don’t steal someone else’s blessing by refusing to let them help you.”
Thanks Michael. Great sentence. Easily said. Not so easily done. 🙂
Interestingly, after washing their feet, Jesus doesn’t say, “Wash my feet.” He says, “You ought to wash each other’s feet.”
Pay it forward.
Leaders not only set the example, but also find creative ways to increase the impact of their actions.
Thanks Paul. The idea of increasing the impact of our actions is so important. It’s normal to say, “I washed your feet. You wash mine.” It’s leadership to say, “I washed your feet. You wash each other’s.”
Hi, Dan, I’ll simply say, humility is a source of power, personal power.
Nicely said, Lyon. Humility has been a topic of interest for several years. I think everything good in leadership begins with humility.
I have a young leader I have been trying to work with who expects a lot of “managerial benefits”, I had to ask what he thinks these magical benefits are that he thinks I have that he doesn’t. Most of them are not real. It is a great reminder along with this post to remain humble in my leadership or risk sounding like this person to his peers.
I love the reminders to ask for help, input and thanking them for helping.
Thanks Therese. It’s normal to think the grass is greener on the other side of the fence. You know that managing is tough. You carry burdens others don’t even think about. Others live for their own wellbeing. You grapple with your own wellbeing AND the wellbeing of others AND the health of your organization.
Point to ponder as well- Jesus washed Judas’ feet as well, knowing that he was going to betray him- that’s a different level- does that spark thought in your practice of humility?
You got me on that one, Mike. I believe we shouldn’t let other people’s bad behavior be an excuse for us to act badly. Even when terminating someone, it’s important to seek their best interest. Thankfully, I don’t know the future.
You reacted just as Peter did (John 13:8) and as many do. My wife and I performed a foot washing at a mission where I used to give the Sunday message once a month. She was skeptical at first but we were both blessed immensely by the experience. When leaders give, they also reap the harvest.
So true Jeff. There is a return to giving. It’s important to stay open to that. Thanks for sharing your experience.
In Hindu Brahmin weddings the Groom’s feet are washed by the father-in law .. treating the groom equal to the Lord.