Daily Proverbial, 1 February 2012

A man’s pride brings him low, but a man of lowly spirit gains honor. Proverbs 29, verse 23.

I regularly pray for humility because I really need to and I really need it.

In my current project, I’m the lead. I’m leading a small team, planning out the implementation of the new ICD-10 diagnosis and procedure codes. We’re working at a small health plan in Minnesota. You may not know it but, if you go to the doctor, this year that doctor and his staff will be getting ready to start using a new set of diagnosis codes. That may not seem like a big deal, but behind the desk, it means quite a lot of work. Every time you see your doctor, they write a diagnosis code on your worksheet (that eventually becomes a claim, which they send to your insurance company or the government or both). The codes they use have been around since the 1960s, but that’s all drastically changing next year, and it will take over a year to prepare and implement the change. Consultants like me plan out that kind of work, then help doctors and insurers get it done.

Much of my work is “aneal (deliberately misspelled):” mundane, arcane, insane. In this particular change, expanding a set of codes from 7000 to over 160,000, the devil truly is in the details. One wrong code and many thousands of dollars (and much back-office work) will be wrongly allocated. The AMA is estimating it will cost every doctor in the nation $83,000 to upgrade to ICD-10, and the Federal government is forcing them to do so. If we don’t do our work correctly, things will go wrong, and that will eventually affect you, Ms. or Mr. Patient, because your claims won’t pay correctly and things cost you much more. Those mundane, arcane, and insane details matter; I bet you can say something similar about what you do for a living.

The thing I like about this kind of work is that, when you do something well, it really goes well. When you do the right analysis, make the right and well-reasoned decisions, or help people in the right way, things fall into place. That’s a heady feeling, and I’m proud of when I get it. I relish the feeling of doing something well, of meeting high standards (we talked about that just the other day), of getting praise for that job well done. You know me: there’s never enough time for me to stand in the spotlight, especially when I’ve earned my time there.

That’s where the potential for problems begins. It’s so easy to get the big head, especially when you have produced results, but that’s unGodly. Dizzy Dean said it best: “It’s not bragging if you can do it.” There’s nothing wrong with righteous pride in accomplishments or abilities, but there’s everything wrong with too much pride. Too much pride can drag you down, make you arrogant, create blind spots. It creates blind spots because the prideful and arrogant lose sight of small things, and those small things can trip you up. The devil is waiting in the details: he works best through them, creating doubt in our minds, creating little crises or problems that keep us from focusing on what God would have us do instead.

I’m proud of what I do, but all too often I’ve let it tear me down instead. I’ve lost my perspective, then lost sight of the details, and then I’ve lost control. When that happened, I’ve lost friendships, lost the respect of co-workers, even lost jobs. That’s no way to live your life. It just means you feel like a loser.

News flash: God doesn’t think we’re losers. He loved, lived, died, and still loves & lives because He wants us to win. He wants our pride to be in Him and the grace-full love He gives. Our greatest accomplishment comes every day when He wraps His arms around us and says “you’re extra special to me. I’ve got you.” When that happens, we gain honor. And we gain honor by humbly loving God.

So these days I’m finding that it’s satisfying to follow another path. I’m learning that there’s something to be proud of in being humble. I’ve said before how that isn’t my strongest suit, but I’m finding it’s a comfortable suit to wear. I’m learning to take compliments but leave it at ‘thank you.’ I’m learning to think well of my abilities and achievements, but to view them in perspective of bigger pictures and other things going on around me. I’m seeing these things as paving stones on the road of a long journey instead of the destination itself. Despite what I’m learning and seeing, I know now, once again, that it’s not about me. Most of all, I’m proud of what I do in the context of being grateful to be able to serve in this way, being grateful for talents and challenges given to me, and being grateful to be forgiven and to share that no matter what.

When you see what you do in that kind of light, it becomes easier to be humble. And when you’re humble, you pray for more humility. You pray in thanks for the love, the people, the life you’re given, and you pray to remain humbly grateful and Godly confident in these things. That kind of pride is good to have. That kind of pride humbly brings honor back into your life. Praise God for these blessings.

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