How humble are you? Let’s say, on a scale of 1 – 10 … 1 being the extreme of arrogance and pride and 10 being Jesus Himself … where would you sit? It feels like a bit of a trick question really, doesn’t it? How does one adequately reflect on their humility levels … in all humility!?
Humility is the act of valuing the dignity of others more highly than your own. Beyond just ‘thinking of others before yourself’ it’s actually surrendering your dignity; your ‘image’ in the eyes of others. It’s laying yourself down for the sake of bringing dignity to those around you. In Philippians 2, Paul talks about us having the same “mindset” as Christ and goes on to describe Jesus’ humility … first, to come to earth as a man (even though He is God) and secondly, to submit Himself to death on a cross (the most humiliating of deaths).
It takes humility to admit a lack of humility … and it is also the nature of pride to blind us to the ways in which a lack of humility presents itself in our lives.
So, time for a humility check-up! Maybe some of these things will highlight the areas for us where humility is most lacking.
You might be lacking in humility if …
- You boast in yourself
Proverbs 27:2 says “Let another praise you, and not your own mouth …” We all react negatively to someone blowing their own trumpet but a sign of pride at work in our lives is the need to self-promote. Do you find yourself boasting and bragging? Do you need to receive credit for the things you’ve done or said or the part you’ve played in another person’s success?
- You get defensive
To a certain extent, defensiveness is just reactive boasting. We are defending an incorrect perception, justifying our own actions or acting to ensure we don’t appear wrong, weak or lacking in anyway. “I was not!” “It was her idea!” Defensiveness (which is different to working together to reach mutual understanding) is a form of appearance management that often comes out our mouths in sharp tones and biting remarks.
- You fight or get angry
The substance of fighting is very nearly ‘always’ a sense of selfishness – beyond just defending ourselves we move to an aggressive desire to get our way, to be right. A lack of humility sees us convinced that those things are the most important – beyond caring for others. We very rarely fight on behalf of another person – we aren’t fighting for their dignity, we’re fighting for our own. Anger is a complete disregard for the heart of another person, it is to set your heart against them in hatred and aggression.
- You avoid confrontation
On the flip side – avoiding confrontation can be just as much a reflection of a lack of humility as fighting. Instead of putting our own needs first and fighting FOR something we elevate the potential for our own discomfort, embarrassment, awkwardness or hurt over bringing resolve to interactions or relationships. When conflict is non-combative it is actually a healthy part of life and relationship. It’s in those moments of communication, compromise and negotiation that we bring about the best ideas and the strongest relational ties.
- You are impatient or intolerant
STOP! I know what you’re thinking! “I wouldn’t be so impatient or intolerant if other people weren’t so annoying and intolerable!!” (Yes, I can read your minds – creepy isn’t it?) Impatience and intolerance are emotional reactions to things not happening like we would want or in the time frame we want. It is all about us. Humility requires that we care less about our own needs and our own plans in deference to care and concern for others.
- You make bad choices
Humility breeds wisdom. Humility encourages us to seek wise counsel, to submit ourselves to another’s expertise or experience, to ask questions and admit that we don’t know it all or may not have all we need in and of ourselves to navigate life successfully. Humility sees us valuing the best decision over our need to look like we have it all sorted.
- You give in to insecurity
There’s not a person on the planet who hasn’t had moments of feeling insecure, unsure, nervous, inadequate or embarrassed. It’s all part of the human experience!! But when we give in to insecurity in a situation, we have allowed the protection of our own dignity to override whatever the potential outcome might be. When we don’t go and speak to a new person at church or we don’t pray out loud in a group or we don’t offer to help in a team because we feel insecure, we are saying that the welcome of the new person, the ministry to others, the gift of serving other people is less important than our own dignity. Timidity and shyness are not synonyms for meekness and humility.
- You hold a grudge
Our inability to forgive or to move on from offense can reflect a lack of humility. It is not to minimise the hurt or the wounding that we experience at the hands of others – either carelessly or intentionally – but we hang on to the idea that our wounding requires that someone else would pay, that they would be wounded also. Aside from the fact that often the objects of our grudges or un-forgiveness don’t even realise they are – we bind ourselves up in bitterness and offense which will only grow poisonous fruit in our own lives.
- You are a worrier (**mutters under breath*** “control freak”)
Pride tells us that we need things to be how we need things to be and the only way to assure that is to do them ourselves. While we acknowledge that different people have varying capacity and skills to keep things in order and make them run smoothly, could it be that our need for control stems more from a lack of humility? Are we working to protect our dignity and serve ourselves rather than trusting others and trusting God?
- You are unteachable
I don’t need to tell you how annoying those people are who seem to know everything about everything …always! Of course, I’m not talking about you – but I’m sure you know people like this! Or perhaps, just perhaps, you have an unteachable spirit yourself sometimes too. When we dismiss others as having nothing to teach us, when we are not open to input in our lives, when we mentally write people off for being too old, too young, too female, too something and don’t entertain the possibility that we could learn – we reflect a hardened heart and an unteachable spirit. Prov 12:1 says those who hate correction are stupid (yep, Bible word … “stupid”!!). A lack of humility can make us stupid.
- You are arrogant
Arrogance is when a lack of humility seeps out of your pores! Those who are boastful, proud, haughty, self-righteous, never ever ever ever wrong (and even if they are wrong and they know they’re wrong they manage to twist and turn things around to make it look like they were not wrong!) are demonstrating a lack of humility that will inevitably be their undoing. We know people like that, right? But maybe, if someone ever intimates to you that you are appearing even the slightest bit arrogant, humility might cause you to self assess and make some corrections (rather than defend, fight, get angry, blame … etc).
- You have secrets
What do you try and cover up? What are you desperately hoping no one ever finds out about you? What character trait, behaviour, addiction, relationship or action would you hate to have another person know about? When we are actively seeking to appearance-manage, to coordinate our own P.R. and Press we are protecting our dignity above even the truth! Humility doesn’t require public announcements in the local paper, but it also doesn’t allow for secrecy and cover ups.
- You are ungenerous
Not just with your money or your things, but with your words and your time and your interest. Do you struggle to encourage others because you don’t want them to look better at something than you? Are you holding back on contributing to another person’s life – practically or relationally – because it will cost you too much, or because they will then have more than you? Humility requires sacrifice.
Father God, I want to grow to be more like Jesus – open the eyes and ears of my heart – reveal the areas of my life where I lack humility. Amen.