Humility is a keyword for any person striving to live the Christian life. Over and over in scripture we’re taught to learn humility.
I’m writing today to offer a reflection I’ve been mulling over for the last couple of days on the way we understand the concept of humility. I believe that the humility God calls us towards will always lead us towards wholeness and health; it will never leave us feeling broken and insufficient.
Ordinarily, I think, humility is so often seen as any number of these phrases, all of which by leads to brokenness and feelings of inadequacy: ignoring oneself; dying to oneself; putting the focus on others and not oneself; thinking lowly of oneself; not making much of one’s personality/character/gifts; not flaunting oneself; never talking about oneself, etc.
At least, this is the way I grew up understanding humility in my early years both at home and in the churches I attended. It was portrayed as nearly self degradation; as not even acknowledging one’s own strengths. Humility is important, but it is crucial to understand what God means and wants for us when He calls us to be humble. With a false understanding of humility (or perhaps better stated an incomplete understanding of humility) we end up the opposite of humble, full of worry and concern and hatred towards our selves, feeling as though we must always be putting ourselves down in order to raise others up.
In reading and thinking in the last couple days it struck me that if we degrade (or even just ignore) ourselves for the sake of so-called “humility”, we degrade and ignore God’s own design and sacrifice, calling Him a fool for loving us and deeming us worthy of His death on a cross.
If we minimize our strengths, we paralyze those gifts given to us by God for the very purpose of glorifying Him and loving others and ourselves, which often leaves us feeling devoid of meaning, purpose, and usefulness.
Humility isn’t about dwelling on my insignificance, it’s about wondering at God’s significance; and wondering at God’s significance INCLUDES acknowledgement and celebration of our own gifts and strengths and beauties, because we are part of God’s repertoire of masterful design and passionate love.
Humility is being in love with God, content to revel in His daily ordinance for our lives, finding joy in the commonplace, caring for ourselves and loving others.
Humility INCLUDES self-love.
If any of you have been following along with my thought streams on this blog, you know by now that self-love is something I believe in deeply and think must be a high priority in any healthy life. Not for the purpose of selfishly putting one’s own interests ahead of others, but for the purpose of thriving in the state God has put us on. Can you imagine a Rose thinking it must never bloom as a Rose, but instead it must seek to be a Lilly, because, for some arbitrary reason, a Lilly is portrayed as better? As part of the body of Christ, every element, every soul, every personality plays a crucial part – but to play that part each person must know themselves. How can we glorify God for what He’s done in us if we have no awareness of our own hearts?
I believe that the humility God calls us towards will always lead us towards wholeness and health; it will never leave us feeling broken and insufficient. Humility points towards love so deep and healthy that it is able to see past it’s own needs to putting other’s needs above it’s own, because it’s own needs are already being met emotionally and spiritually. Humility sees the wonder of God’s creation and sacrifice, God’s passionate pursuit and love of ourselves, and seeing those things it rests in comfort and confidence of our self’s own worth, such that we are freed from the bondage of self-doubt, self-hatred, self-degradation, self-ignorance, and made able in confidence and love to minister to others with love, community, and vulnerability.
Yes, humility means thinking of others, considering others, placing their needs in a spot of importance, choosing to love them instead of gratifying our own menial preferences, forbearing with other’s failings or even just differences. But humility must be complete, to be healthy. Pursue humility, but not from a negative standpoint. Pursue it from the positive celebration of the power of God to create such a valuable being as yourself, to redeem you, to love you, to design you uniquely, and in that celebration and solid foundation, you can be freed to practice the humility that can lovingly put other’s interests ahead of your own.
Don’t settle for less. Remember: God’s instructions, if understood and followed truly, will never leave us hurting and broken and unworthy, not if we have the gospel and are covered in Jesus’ shed blood. God’s instructions will always leave us confident, hopeful, free, and in a state of celebration.