What humility really is
For many years I thought humility was negating any compliment given to me with criticism. I think it made me uncomfortable to think that there could be anything good about me. In hindsight, it sounds really stupid.
Through a couple of revelations brought on by grace I learned what humility really is, and it turns out that Paul wasn’t wrong when he said “Love does not boast”. I share these checkpoints in the hope that they’ll edify you too.
Checkpoint 1: God set the standard of what humility is
Throughout the Bible, there are examples of God displaying what humility is. The first one recorded is in Genesis 2, where God kneeled down to breathe life into dust.
The second one, and this was really the one that blew me away was in Exodus 34. After the Israelites had the golden calf incident, God instructs Moses to go up the mountain (of Sinai) to meet with Him. The passage continues to state:
“Then the Lord came down in the cloud and stood there with him and proclaimed his name, the Lord.”Exodus 34:4
It struck me then that in spite of the fact that Moses “went up”, God still had to “come down” to meet at Moses’ level. In this image, God disregards His “status” and right to claim superiority, and chooses to meet with Moses on his level.
Checkpoint 2: Pride can look mighty humble too
I’m not sure when this happened, but I realised that when I break down my handiwork, no matter how great it is, I’m saying, “I should have done that perfectly”. By saying this, I’m making the assumption that I can do everything perfectly. All the time.
Therefore, I’m saying my default setting is “perfect”, which I’m honest with myself, isn’t true.
Checkpoint 3: God made us in His image
This one was tough, and I had to apologise to God for it, but I realised that when I break myself down, I’m saying that God could have done a better job. That’s actually just plain arrogance.
“Hey Lord, it’s great that you made me, but you know what? I don’t think you got it quite right.”
When I break myself down, no matter how small it seems, I was also saying that God’s image is not good enough for my “high standards”.
This part was really a long term healing project God worked on, by helping me love myself, but it was crucial to untangling unhealthy thought patterns.
Checkpoint 4: Everything we have is a gift from God
Scripture is littered with reminders that what we have, was given by grace. From our day to day needs being met (Luke 11:3), to our salvation (Ephesians 2:8) and even the faith we have to trust in God (Romans 3:12). Literally everything we have, was given. It wasn’t ours to begin with and we didn’t gain it by some power hidden within us.
If everything is a gift and all of these gifts are from God, then these gifts shouldn’t be criticised, because God can only give good gifts.
If we criticise our talents, and even the hard work it took to develop these talents, we’re criticising a good gift.
If you gave someone something extremely valuable, and they turned around pointing out the flaws in it, you would likely be miffed. Even if it wasn’t that great a gift, you would be miffed about the response.
Humility should not be confused with boasting
Look, I know that there is a flip side to criticising everything about you. It’s inflating who and what you are without a sober thought of your weaknesses. We know we’re muppets (people that mess up frequently). All of us are muppets. The temptation is often to inflate what we’ve done and who we are for the sake of hiding our muppetiness.
When we boast about ourselves, we move to the other side of the pride scale, which is just as bad as breaking ourselves down.
So, what shall we do?
For me, I’ve found that acknowledging the good gifts and the one Who gave them, helps tremendously when I’m complimented. It points the glory upwards, and takes the pressure off me to perform in the same way every time.
I’ve also found that acknowledging my weaknesses is extremely helpful. Realising that you muck up because of bad habits is a good start to changing them. It also opens you up to a partnership with God to grow and improve on them.
Remember who made you, and gave you all the good gifts that you have. Don’t take these gifts to heart, thinking that you’re the one who owns them.
Remember that good gifts are given by God, and point that glory upwards to avoid performance pressure.
Acknowledge your weaknesses, there’s nothing wrong with the fact that you were made of dust.