How To Practice Humility
You probably heard the story of the parishioner who received recognition for being the humblest man in the church. As an award, the congregation gave him a pin to wear. The following Sunday, the parishioner wore his new pin, and the congregation took it away from him for being too proud. Sometimes humility is like this: As soon as we think we are humble, we are not.
Humility can conjure up depressing images of self-abasement and groveling, however, this is not the true meaning of humility. Perhaps we can best understand humility by attempting to see ourselves through God’s eyes rather than our own. Humility is not denying the power or gifting you have but admitting that the gifting is from God and the power comes through you and not from you.
To truly repent from, or “put off”, pride requires that we embrace, or “put on”, humility. James 4:10 says, “Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord and He will exalt you.” The purpose of Embark Ministries is to help us mature in our faith. Part of faith development is addressing areas of pride in our lives and embracing humility as a gift from God. Following are a few suggestions to help you in your struggle with pride and humility.
- Routinely confess your sin to God (Luke 18:9-14) – All of us sin and fall short of the glory of God. Still, too few of us routinely practice rigorous self-examination. A regular inventory of our heart and behavior, coupled with confession to God, is an essential practice of humility.
- Acknowledge your sin to others (James 3:2; 5:16) – Humility before God is incomplete without humility before man as well. A true test of our willingness to humble ourselves is whether we share our weaknesses with others. Make sure this is done with trustworthy friends.
- Receive wrongs with grace (I Peter 3:8-17) – When I am aware of an injustice, I want to react and rectify it. However, patiently responding to others’ unjust accusations and actions demonstrate strength of godly character and provide an opportunity to put on humility. Be slow to defend yourself from unjust accusations.
- Submit to authority (I Peter 2:18) – Our culture devalues submission and promotes entitlement and individualism. In contrast, God commands us to walk in submission to authority. When you make it a point to do so, you humble yourself in a godly manner.
- Receive correction and feedback graciously (Proverbs 10: 17; 12:1) – Respond to criticism by saying something like “Thank you for caring enough to share that with me. I will pray about it and get back to you.” There is usually a kernel of truth in any criticism, even if the source is dubious. Pray that God will reveal His lesson for you instead of reacting negatively.
- Accept a lowly place (Proverbs 25:6-7) – Wanting to sit at the head table, wanting others to recognize your contribution or becoming offended when others are honored or chosen before you indicates the presence of pride in your life. Actively support the recognition of others who have been spotlighted rather than you. Accept and look for the lowly place; it is the place of humility.
- Associate with people of lower social stature (Luke 7:36-39) – The Pharisees derided Jesus for socializing with the poor and unwanted members of society. Our culture is very status conscious, and people naturally want to socialize upward. Resist the temptation to be partial toward those with status or wealth.
- Serve others (Philippians 1:1, 2 Corinthians 4:5, Matthew 23:11) – When we serve others, we also serve God’s purposes in their lives. Such service builds the Kingdom of God instead of the kingdom of self. When our service requires little or no sacrifice on our part, we should question whether it is truly servanthood.
- Forgive (Matthew 18: 21-35) – Forgiveness is one of the greatest acts of humility. When we forgive, we acknowledge that a wrong has been done to us and relinquish our right to compensation or retaliation. Forgiveness is self-denial; it is resisting the temptation to exact justice on our own terms.
- Develop a grateful heart (1 Thessalonians 5:18) – The more we develop an attitude of gratitude for God’s gifts of salvation and eternal life, the truer our perspective of self and others becomes. Humility has everything to do with a proper perspective of self. A grateful heart is a humble heart.
- Speak well of others (Ephesians 4:31-32) – Saying negative things about others rearranges our mental “ladder,” moving others down a rung while moving ourselves upward. It is simply another manifestation of pride. Speaking well of others edifies them. Just be careful that your words are not intended as flattery.
Pride is not a problem that is easily fixed and goes away. It is a heart condition. It is our nature to be proud, and it is God’s nature in us that brings forth humility. The foundation of true humility is laid on a commitment to a lifestyle of dying to self and living for Christ. As we practice this discipline in our lives, we will grow in our faith and develop the character of a mature disciple of Christ.