Humility is a hard sell these days. Actually, it’s never been on anyone’s top ten list of fun character traits to develop. But pride is the enemy of all happiness, I believe. By pride, I don’t mean self-esteem. The confusing of the two to the detriment of both is a popular topic for women’s faith blogs, but holding oneself as precious in the eyes of the Lord is necessary to holding other people precious as well. Pride, unlike self-esteem, has a chilly heart.
The problem with pride is that it needs to be constantly sustained at the expense of others. The art of comparing ourselves with others assumes that we know better than they do and are just a little better or at least, know better. But the energy required to keep up a false front and show only your Sunday best can be wearisome. Having to be everyone’s savior, problem solver, boss, or life guide means one can never relax and ask for a helping hand. Better to do without than accept help.
So humility brings incredible freedom from all that mess and even a bunch of joy with it. Here’s the list:
1: Humility means people like you for you.
Or maybe they don’t. Either way, the truth is on the table and it is much easier to tell who wants a genuine relationship with you and who doesn’t. A real relationship requires a life without masks. Love is so much easier to give and receive when your source of validation is not linked to what people think of you.
We are all expert hypocrisy detectors. The cool thing about the humble is that you can locate their true self every time. They have a there there, if you know what I mean. No affected airs, no pretentious poses, and no condescending attitudes are needed by the humble to prove anything. They don’t need to prove what they already know to be true in their hearts.
2: Humility frees us from fear.
So much of our anxiety hinges on what people think of us. A humble spirit understands that we can’t really even judge ourselves, much less others. The general opinions of others are essentially meaningless to a person well-versed in humility. The humble don’t fear to be wrong. They have been before and undoubtedly will be again. If one’s identity is founded upon a bedrock of truth, then the lies or misconceptions of others cannot harm. And by Truth, I mean the person of Jesus Christ. Truth is a person, not merely an abstract concept.
3: Humility frees us to forgive and be forgiven.
Nearly every family fight has the ugly specter of pride rearing its ugly head right there in the middle. The Hatfield’s and McCoy’s have been at it for over a hundred years (really!) over the issue of family honor. Real honor is treating everyone as more valuable than things. False honor is pride. And pride is responsible for murders, wars, and divorces galore. But the humble person can ask for forgiveness and grant it because they understand what honor really is. The truth is that every person created by God is more important than the list of their sins. Pride says how dare you! Humility says I’m sorry.
4: Humility keeps us open-minded.
Recently I heard a university lecturer say that the three most important questions we can as ourselves are these: 1. Are we wrong? 2. Are we very wrong? 3. Are we hopelessly wrong? I can think of times when humanity was oh so wrong. Genocides, enslavement, and a host of other evils occur when we are hopelessly wrong. Humility can help prevent us from participating in the kinds of mistakes that will horrify generations to come. Humility can also keep us from destroying our families through adultery, abuse, and addiction.
5: Humility makes us teachable.
I could always tell which students would do well as writers. They took the criticisms handed out by the class with acceptance and a desire to be better. If they protested and tried to defend their work, I knew that they weren’t teachable. They couldn’t learn from the honest reactions others had to their work. They dug their heels in and guaranteed that their learning curve had just come to an abrupt stop.
The Bible links humility with both wisdom and honor. Pride, on the other hand, is inextricably linked to fools and their ultimate fall. Best to choose a meek life rather than one filled with the pride of life.
6: Humility helps us enjoy other people and their successes.
I recently read that some people get depressed on social media because they feel inadequate. They compare themselves to the tiny snapshots of their friend’s lives and find themselves wanting. This is pride in a subtle guise. Insecurity sometimes seems like the opposite of pride but it isn’t. Insecurity is a harsh judge of oneself and of others. We hold everyone to the idolatrous standard that exists only in our minds. And of course, no one is ever good enough because no one is perfect. Jump off that worthless merry-go-round and you get to feel happy for other people and rejoice in your own blessings as well.
The secret to humility is that we can’t rescue ourselves from arrogance and pride. We can’t do open heart surgery on ourselves either. But Jesus comes into our hearts for just that purpose. And after all, if the God of the universe came to earth as a baby, I think He probably gets humility. He even gets humiliation, having suffered that as well.
The most dangerous prayer of all is not Lord, give me patience. It is Lord, heal my pride. The thing about humility is that one cannot go through some spiritual process alone like a caterpillar in a cocoon. Humility is only experienced in a relationship. We humble ourselves when we are vulnerable to others. We humble ourselves when we confess our sins to our spiritual family. We experience humility when we take risks and fail. But no one ever skinned their knee on Humble Mountain alone in their room. Alone, in our pride, is where we are safe from the inevitable growing pains of humility.
But come on and join the party. The wedding feast is open to all who will come, great and small. Heaven isn’t reserved for saints, but for those who throw themselves upon the mercies of a God who is lowly in spirit and humble of heart.