Christians, in particular, seem to struggle with the concept of humility. For too many years, I thought humility was to depreciate myself, to cling to my failings and faults in order to refuse value. I thought humility was always being aware of my failings, my sins; to live in degradation because of the things I do or have done wrong… in other words, to continually pay for the consequences of my sins.
God is working on my heart. I have realized that humility is very much like courage. Courage is strongest in the face of danger. A person who never faces a challenge, who never faces danger cannot claim to be courageous; so also a person who does not believe in their value cannot be called humble.
If we do not have an intrinsic understanding of our value, we cannot truly understand humility.
Let’s look at some Biblical examples. Who does Scripture admonish to be humble? At first, it is the Israelite nation. Why? They have intrinsic, God-given value. God made it abundantly clear to them that He held them in high regard. He literally moved oceans, rivers and armies to prove how much He cared for them. They KNEW, without a shadow of a doubt, that they were chosen to be God’s special people. What did they do with this knowledge, however? A lot of the time they used it to set themselves apart from the other nations … and not in a healthy way. They set themselves up as more valuable than other people because they had God’s favor. So often, they took the special favor given them by God and decided it was their right rather than their gift. They forgot the source of their value. They refused to be humble. In turn, they had to be humbled.
God doesn’t want proud people. Prideful people treat others with disrespect and abuse. He wants us to understand we are valuable and then show others that they, too, are valuable.
That’s what humbleness is. Humbleness is knowing intrinsically what your value is and helping others to see the same value in themselves.
Pride is believing you alone are valuable and have the right to hurt or hold others down so you look more valuable than they are.
Then there is self-degradation. Self-degradation is refusing to believe you have value, focusing only on your failings and believing that you cannot have value until you have achieved perfection. This is disproved in Scripture time and time again. You simply have to take one character to see this, David for example. David was a simple shepherd, without value in his family of origin, shrouded in mystery, small in size, without anything to recommend him when Samuel anoints him to be the next king of Israel. Suddenly, his life does a complete turnaround and he is pretty much left reeling from the changes. What David does have to begin with is a deep understanding of his value in God’s eyes. David understands that all his accomplishments are because God has provided them and protected him. Even knowing that, even understanding that God was beside him and eager to answer any question he had, David was not perfect. Sometimes he forgot to ask God what to do. Sometimes he blatantly chose to sin, such as when he committed adultery with Bathsheba and had Uriah killed. Sometimes he made huge errors in judgment because he neglected to check in with God. History, however, tells us that no matter what David did, God continued to show him favor. David didn’t need to be perfect; he needed to maintain his humbleness by remembering where his favor came from, returning to God every time he messed up, and using his favor to help others.
Self-degradation … the belief that you have no intrinsic value, is pride, not humility. It stands beside pride in believing that you alone are responsible for achieving and holding value.
Humility comes from understanding Someone Else (God) holds your value, it is a gift meant to be shared. Humility is understanding you don’t have to be perfect, you don’t have to accomplish it all or be strong enough to sustain life. Humility is remembering where you have come from, what you have survived; it is knowing you have value despite the mistakes and errors made along the way. It is seeing the full journey, recognizing God’s hand in your life and treating others the same way.