There is a story of a parishioner of a church who received recognition for being the humblest man in the church. They gave him a pin to wear. The following Sunday he wore it and they took it away from him for being proud.
Humility is such an elusive thing… once we think we have it, we have lost it. To even write or speak about it is tricky, because if you do, you must immediately establish that you are by no means an expert but are just on the journey. I have noticed recently that God has been speaking to me and a number of leaders and friends around me about humility. It just seems that God wants to remind us about the importance of humility. The interesting thing about humility is that throughout the Bible we don’t see that we are encouraged to pray for it, but rather we are instructed to “humble ourselves” – which indicates that humility is an intentional, practical, active decision that we consciously and consistently make.
In 2 Chronicles God says that us humbling ourselves is an important prerequisite to forgiveness, healing, and restoration (7:14). James 4 and 1 Peter 5 both point us back to Proverbs 3, reminding us that “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble” as well as encouraging us to, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.” Colossians 3 reminds us to “clothe ourselves in humility”, and perhaps the most radical idea shows up in Philippians 2 when Paul says, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.”
The thing that has always stood out to me is that pride – which is the obvious opposite of humility – is the only that scripture says the God opposes. I know too often I read past that part quickly without adequately picturing it. If God opposes the proud, then the picture is God standing against and pushing back against those of us who have allowed pride to go unnoticed and unchecked. I know that I never want to be on the other end of God’s opposition, and if I allow pride to remain in me, that’s exactly where I’ll end up. The irony is, when most of us read that, we don’t think it applies to us. One of pride’s tricks is to lead us to believe that we don’t have pride. But it is pride that keeps us from changing, it is pride that we convince ourselves that we can handle a certain amount of sin in our lives without ever dealing with it. Pride is what keeps us from being authentic.
I recently read a tweet that said, “Humility isn’t making less of yourself, but more of God and other people.” So for those of you who are looking for a little more humility in your life – as I am – here are a few practical tools…
8 Ways to Humble Yourself
“There is no room for God in him who is full of himself.”
1. Look for the best in people. Everyone has had some experience you haven’t and is your superior in that respect. Albert Einstein, who is largely regarded as one of the greatest minds ever, said, “I have never met a man so ignorant that I couldn’t learn something from him.”
2. Be quick to admit your mistakes. It’s been said that the hardest words to say in any language are “I was wrong.” Those who refuse to do so out of pride are likely to keep making the same mistakes and alienate people in the process.
3. Be the first to apologize. If “I was wrong” are the hardest words to say, “I’m sorry” have to be the next hardest. It will kill your pride, as well as the argument—two evil birds with one small stone of humility.
4. Actively submit to authority…the good and the bad! Our culture does not value submission; rather it promotes individualism. How purposely and actively do you work on submission to those whom God has placed as authorities in your life? Doing so is a good way to humble yourself.
5. Receive correction and feedback from others graciously. In the Phoenix area, a local East valley pastor was noted for graciously receiving any negative feedback or correction offered. He would simply say “thank you for caring enough to share that with me, I will pray about it and get back to you.” Look for the kernel of truth in what people offer you, even if it comes from a dubious source. Always pray, “Lord, what are you trying to show me through this?”
6. Purposely associate with people of lower state than you. Jesus was derided by the Pharisees for socializing with the poor and those of lowly state. Our culture is very status conscious and people naturally want to socialize upward. Resist the temptation of being partial to those with status or wealth.
7. Serve others. When we serve others, we are serving God’s purposes in their lives. Doing so reduces our focus on ourselves and builds the Kingdom of God instead of the Kingdom of self. Volunteer to help the elderly, the infirm, or children, or do some other form of community service. You’ll gain more than you give, both in humility and loving thanks.
8. Give God the credit for anything good about you and anything good that He helps you do. “Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches. But let him that glories glory in this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the Lord!”