Someone once shared with me a secret concerning work. He said if someone asks you to help them with something, and you see the potential of it becoming a job you don’t like, be sure to do a terrible job the first time. They won’t ask you back.

That’s certainly one way to do it. Another possibility is that you do a terrible job the first time; even when you do your best! It can be frustrating to those around you and quite humiliating to you, but you have both learned a lesson.

In 1956, a Mr. Basil Willey, professor of English at Pembroke College, Cambridge, suggested to C. S. Lewis that he should consider becoming Chairman of the Faculty Board of English. Lewis knew what the job involved. On October 26, he writes back:

“It would never do. People so often deny their own capacity for business either through mock-modesty or through laziness that when the denial happens to be merely true, it is difficult to make it convincing. But I have been tried at this kind of job; and none of those who experienced me in office ever wanted to repeat the experiment. I am both meddlesome and forgetful. Quite objectively, I’d be a disaster. But thank you for your suggestion.”1

There is a difference between humility and humiliation. By practicing the first you may avoid the second.

“And the manager said to himself, ‘What shall I do, since my master is taking the management away from me? I am not strong enough to dig, and I am ashamed to beg.’” – Luke 16:3.

  1. Walter Hooper, ed., The Collected Letters of C. S. Lewis: Narnia, Cambridge, and Joy 1950-1963, Vol. III (New York: HarperSanFrancisco, 2007), 802.

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