Okay, I confess. Humility does not come naturally to me.
The first things I think of when I wake up in the morning is what I need to do today, what I will eat for breakfast, how much hot water I will have in the shower, what I want to do to relax after work, etc. I-I-I, me-me-me.
It's true--I'm a prideful, self-centered human-being. I'm quite aware that the "lens of self" is not the lens Jesus Christ wants me to experience the world through--but, how do I actually become more humble? Are some people just born more humble than others, or are there practical steps I can personally take to be less concerned about myself?
Maybe you have found yourself asking similar questions.
I notice my lack of humility most often with my wife. Like any couple, we sometimes bicker about silly things, which leads to one of us having our feelings hurt, which leads to one or both of us being upset or angry. It's a cycle of sorts, but at the center of the conflict I usually find my heart responding in only one way: self-(righteous)-defense!
Sometimes, I notice my lack of humility at work. My role in the ministry is to produce media content that effectively and attractively shares the story of who IDES is, why we exist, and whom we are serving. "Media content" is a fancy way of saying "artwork" when it comes to true definitions. More often than not, the content I produce must be reviewed and edited by multiple other coworkers for the sake of accountability and excellence on behalf of IDES -- a truly good and healthy process. But, sometimes I get my feelings hurt when a certain piece is critiqued in a certain way, even if the piece really does need to include this or that coworker's input. Pretty silly of me, right?
Regardless of whether you are married or single, or of what you do for a living, we all have a tendency to think of ourselves first. We are quite precious and decently righteous in our own eyes. I know, I know, it might hurt to be honest with ourselves here. But realizing our sinful nature and exposing it to ourselves is the first step to approaching humility.
Instead of preaching to you as if I have this all figured out, I think it would be better if we both take a deep dive into scripture together and allow the Holy Spirit to preach to us.
Here is what Paul wrote to the church in Philippi about being humble:
"So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, 2 complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." - Philippians 2:1-11
Wow. It would be hard for anyone to read this passage and not feel convicted in some way. I think there are at least three steps towards becoming more humble that the Spirit outlines through Paul in this passage.
1.) Make other people more important to you than yourself.
"Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves." This feels like an internal battle. As creatures with strong instincts, we almost always look for the ways in which a situation can be most beneficial for us. Be it safety or security, social status, or even emotional fulfillment, we innately desire that which benefits us. We are subtly the most important person in our minds. But God calls us to see others as more important.
The only way to defeat this subconscious bias is to fight it with a conscious one. It might take practice (years, even!), but consciously making ourselves aware of who else is in the room, of who else is part of the situation, and of who else will be affected by a decision will open our hearts to God's lens of putting others first. It's a choice that we have to make in every conversation, relationship, and situation -- "what's most important to me right now, what he or she has to say OR how I am going to respond next?"
2.) Celebrate the interests of others more than your own.
"Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others." As a media director, I geek-out over DSLR camera equipment and the newest trick on video-editing software. Clearly, this is not everyone's cup of tea. Naturally, I am usually less interested in hearing someone else tell me about their hobby or their work than I am in telling him or her about mine. This is "my thing," and that's "their thing." But of course, I feel bad when someone isn't very interested in hearing about me! God calls us to genuinely celebrate what others are interested in and what they are doing.
I chose the word "celebrate" on purpose. It's one thing to just sit and "hear" or to passively "watch" someone express his or her interest. It's an entirely different thing to "celebrate" what he or she is doing. Does your sister participate in a sport at school? Celebrate her by attending her games or meets. Is your buddy an academic type? Celebrate him by asking about his latest research project. Do some of your coworkers have an affinity for a certain musician? Celebrate them by asking them to play their favorite song. Sometimes, it's as easy as listening attentively and cheerfully being present. We'll get our turn to express ourselves some other time.
3.) Look at and learn from the beautiful example of Jesus.
"...who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped..." Jesus Christ is the ultimate example of perfect humility. This passage of scripture is one of my all-time favorites. It poetically explains the depth of beauty that Jesus exemplifies through his life and death and resurrection. I sometimes forget that Jesus easily could have revealed himself as some gloriously hard-to-comprehend being, and could have easily saved himself from off that cross -- but he didn't. Jesus revealed himself as fully human (while still being in nature fully God). Jesus humbly submitted to the gracious will of our Father and stayed up on that cross, suffering out of his immense love for us each.
Looking at Christ's example every chance we get is the best way to learn how to be more humble. In everything he said or did, he expressed himself humbly. Jesus considers our lives to be more important than his own. Jesus celebrates our interests by using our gifts and talents for building his Kingdom. Jesus died so that we may live. Isn't this absolutely beautiful? We can surely practice humility by beginning at the foot of the cross and gazing upon the resurrected glory of our Savior, so that his love may encourage and equip us to put others first in our lives.
This is just a starting point, and we have much left to learn. The only way to become more humble is by practicing it daily. I pray that these three observations from Philippians 2:1-11 might move you to be a little bit more humble today. We are in this together!
-written by Chase Cotten, Media Director at IDES