Contributed by Vic Kohring
When I served in the Alaska Legislature many years ago, humility was as scarce as palm trees growing in Alaska. With a swarm of egomaniacs scurrying about the capitol trying to take credit for everything short of the sun rising in the morning, it was an unpleasant environment I could do without.
As an elected representative, tooting one's horn is sometimes an unfortunate necessity, so your constituents are aware you're working hard on their behalf and getting things done. And it helps get you reelected. However, many politicians carry it too far. Too often, I found my fellow pols rushing to take credit for bills they didn't sponsor or budget items they had no role in securing.
I once worked closely with the Department of Transportation to fund pedestrian tunnels under the Parks Highway. After a year of hard work and success, another politician took full credit, announcing their alleged achievement in a newsletter. Another time, I was successful getting a bill through the legislative process which authorized the Department of Fish & Game to issue permits to private individuals for keeping certain "exotic" animals, a very popular issue at the time. After an entire session's work and eventual success, a colleague issued a press release claiming credit.
Legislative heads swell for other reasons too. When bestowed the title "State Representative" or "State Senator," it's easy to feel full of oneself. The halls of the state capitol are loaded with people who stroke legislators’ egos. People practically bow down to you as they seek favor. Lobbyists pull on your arm and special interest groups attempt to sweet talk you into backing their pet project. Moreover, having control of multi-billion-dollar state operating and capital budgets, and being in a position to create new laws, we're all bound by representatives’ significant power, which often goes straight to a ruler's head.
One of the most annoying acts of narcissism is when the daily prayer is delivered on the House and Senate Floor at the start of each session. There's typically a mad scramble to be the one selected to offer the prayer. During the prayer, heads are bowed low in exaggerated fashion, knowing that cameras are rolling, and people are observing back home. To me, a measure of one's character is how you conduct yourself when no one is looking, and the cameras are off. Most of my work was done quietly in my office, where my staff and I helped literally thousands through the years with various problems involving government. We took great pride in working quietly and discreetly - and sometimes anonymously - to improve the lives of our constituents. No standing on a hilltop shouting our accomplishments.
Jesus was critical of show-offs. Once, when he and his disciples observed people in the temple, a rich person walked in, faulting himself with his offering of gold coins and making a big "look at me" scene. Then a widowed lady quietly and without fanfare entered and offered two small copper coins, giving up everything she had. The same flaunting goes on in Juneau with far too many hot shots and far too few exhibiting humility. Jesus said in Luke 20 to beware of the teachers of the law, because they enjoy walking around in flowing robes and love to be greeted with their important seats and places of honor while making long prayers for show. This is exactly the scenario I witnessed repeatedly in Juneau.
I greatly admire humility in people. There are some I know who are genuine, sincere Christians and most importantly, humble - those I aspire to emulate. I'm by no means perfect as a Christian and admit my ego occasionally gets in the way. But I've tried to make a conscious effort to be humble in all walks of life, as Jesus instructs.