“Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less.” — C. S. Lewis
Some people seem to think that being humble means to let others walk all over you. That is simply not true. Being humble is to be teachable. People who let others walk all over them usually have a problem with self-esteem. Humble people just know they have a lot to learn and are eager to begin the process.
To be humble is to be submissive to God’s will. God’s will is never for us to be neglected or abused by anyone. God is kind and loving. God may not always answer our prayers in the manner that we expect or want at the time, but God does answer our prayers for our good. Humility is understanding that God has our back for the ultimate good, and being submissive to the fact that we may have to wait for certain blessings to be fulfilled.
It bears repeating that to be submissive does not mean to submit to neglect or abuse.
Some may wonder if those seeking to become humble must forever defer to the strongly held opinions and positions of others. Certainly, Jesus’ life evidences that true humility is anything but subservience, weakness, or servility.
We can’t be humble without great love for others. Love is unselfish. Being humble means being willing to forego our own desires unselfishly for the betterment of someone else.
Some suppose that humility is about beating ourselves up. Humility does not mean convincing ourselves that we are worthless, meaningless, or of little value. Nor does it mean denying or withholding the talents God has given us. Humility directs our attention and love toward others and to God’s purposes. Pride does the opposite. Pride draws its energy and strength from the deep wells of selfishness. The moment we stop obsessing with ourselves and lose ourselves in service, our pride diminishes and begins to die.
One cannot be humble without being grateful. The humblest people I have ever met are constantly serving others. They serve, their own family, extended family, neighbors, community—everyone they meet. They have an incredible amount of love to give, which leads to service, which leads to gratitude and humility. I have watched as they have served the elderly with tenderness and love. While Hospice takes care of medical needs, these folks provide true friendship. Death does not even break the bonds of service, as they dutifully decorate the graves of family and friends on a regular basis in cemeteries scattered over many miles. Service to others makes us grateful to our God for our own blessings, as gratitude turns into humility.
As I have pondered these faithful folk, I am struck by two qualities they all seem to have. First, regardless of social or economic status or position, their humility leads to submissiveness to God’s will. And second, in spite of the difficulties and trials of life, they are able to maintain a sense of gratitude for God’s blessings and life’s goodness. Humility and gratitude are truly twin characteristics of joy.
Humility, I believe is often learned by experiencing pain, whether physical, emotional, or spiritual. None of us come through mortal existence without experiencing adversity. How we handle our trials is what is important. It then makes sense, as I see it, to turn our inevitable troubles into something good.
I’m sure, like me, you all know someone who complains constantly about everything in life. Sometimes we all need to vent, so I’m not talking about the occasional complainer; I’m talking about the chronic Doomsday Sayers, those I call “death dealers.” Nothing is ever good enough, bright enough, or happy enough for this person. If given a bonus of $1,000, he or she would complain it wasn’t $2,000. If rain comes after a long drought, she would complain the rain frizzes her hair. If her husband does the dishes, she will complain that he didn’t take out the garbage. If his wife organizes the kitchen cupboards, he will complain she didn’t give the dog a bath. I think you know this person. Don’t you want to say, “Hey, get a grip?!” If the chronic complainer were to turn complaints into service for others, his/her heart would change, gratitude would come, and so would humility.
Now consider the most humble people you know. Do you know their life trials? What adversity have they overcome? Sometimes the humblest people are those who have come through great trials. Pain can often bring us to humility that allows us to ponder. While I don’t want to go through unpleasant and painful circumstances, in the end, I have many times been grateful to have endured the experience, for it gives me great empathy and compassion for those who are going through their own hardships and losses.
Humility is the art of thinking unselfishly about others, giving service, expressing constant gratitude, and being submissive to God’s will. It is being teachable. Humility is the opposite of prideful. Humble people are those who turn their adversity into good. C. S. Lewis put it quite nicely that it is thinking of ourselves less.
When we think about others and how we can serve the common good, that is when we have started being more in tune with God’s will.
Let us pray:
Almighty God our heavenly Father, you declare your glory and show forth your handiwork in the heavens and in the earth: Deliver us in our various occupations from the service of self alone, that we may do the work you give us to do in truth and beauty and for the common good; for the sake of him who came among us as one who serves, your Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.