Humility digs deeper than the rudiments of opening doors for the elderly, or the simplism of admitting our wrongs. Humbleness comes from the willingness of the spirit to be broken in order to grow, surrender in the form of release; not surrender to the loss of authenticity, but to the release of the egocentric mind and its narcissism.
We discover humility upon, for instance, the consideration of respect we have for our grandparents in raising our parents, our parents in raising us (or the parental figures who raised you, be they aunts, cousins, or other familial parental roles), and whether our deference for either is obligatory, or embraced with gratitude.
When humbleness of spirit is squandered or exhausted, pride either replaces its quiet reassurance, or humility is defeated in the disappointment of depression. Either arrogance undermines our humility to the point that our pride overrides its steadfast assuredness, or we get drowned away with self-degradation by the extremes of shying away from overzealousness.
The importance of humility is pivotal in learning to better ourselves, but detrimental when we confuse the life lessons meant to challenge our pride for punitive evidence of our vacuity. In other words, yes, we don’t know everything, but that doesn’t pronounce us a black-hearted dunce. Learning something new is merely a sign that there’s room for growth, not nearly that we lack the spacial aptitude for character development.
What strikes me about pride is how subtly it can percolate through us like innocence. The smallest denigrating comment, the slightest integer of intention apart from sincerity, and pride has the cunning to intoxicate its own choice to surrender. This is not to say that humility lacks ample self-reassurance and firm grounding; humility’s self-confidence exists independently of the pompous verbosity of pride. Truly, the characteristics of humility we admire so highly are divulged in the confidence of pride. It’s where pride’s imperious nature hinders its own ability to recognize room for growth that its overbearing distortion obscures its perception of humility. This narrows humility’s path in accepting its potential weaknesses, and in turn, reluctantly force-dipping it into the overflow of pride which appears as desperation careening on arrogance. At times, pride may be too afraid to acknowledge its need for the necessary demands of humility to slow down and practice discernment—steering itself away from the source problem and diving directly into the heart of the storm on the whim that its own strength is sufficient. Of course, pride’s weakness is the greatest strength of humility, insofar that humbleness is complemented by the surrender of pride in order that its weaknesses would be reformed and properly re-established, having been mitigated by steadfast assuredness—the very heart of humility.
Why is humility inspiring and pleasing to our perception of others? Why do we feel driven to emulate the characteristics of the humble, the calm, and the steady? Put simply, we admire, respect, and prefer someone with self-control. A balanced mind, willing to consider others’ opinions and pondering alternatives before making a decision, be it a belief, a behavior, or otherwise, is influenced and guided by moral obligation, and embraced with a ready heart. This is, subjectively-speaking, one perspective of the thought process of humility. Humility can begin with discernment, first understanding the situation of the mind and heart before translating it into something as palpable as empiricism. When what we see expressed displays the surrender to love, to feeling joy and hope, we witness the incarnation of humility in Jesus Christ. His love is welcoming, His humility contagious, His Truth invigorating; His reality all-encompassing. In this perspective, we find Jesus’s reality extrapolating through Christianity into modern times where Christ-followers understand the importance of Christ-like love as more important than anything. When this reality becomes palpable for the believer, humility becomes second nature to the following and pursuing of God, continuing to know Him through Jesus.
Humility without Jesus is surrender without letting go; when we see how Jesus presented humbleness is His passion to love others first, we, even without volition, let go of our narcissism. We release our selfish desires in the humility of, “If Christ did it for me, I will do it for Him.”
Jesus said we would have trouble in this world, but that He had overcome the world (John 16:33). What does a Christ-follower have to fear then, by loving others through Him? What does a Christ-follower have to fear by loving others because of Jesus’s sacrifice on the cross, and the miracle of His resurrection? Nothing. We have nothing to fear. Not even fear itself, which is the darkest and most facetious joke of the enemy in a feeble attempt to convince us God isn’t really in control. But God is, and because He is in control of everything but our choices, we can choose Him without fear. That sets us free from the malicious devastations of a hedonism—leading to loneliness, isolation, and the decay of the soul.
Perhaps we have some work to do on our interior. Perhaps we could resist more tenaciously against our pride by refining the way we consider humility, and in so doing, recognizing humility’s face in the person of Christ. Whoever we emulate, be they other than Jesus—we ask ourselves who they emulate.
What’s so very telling about a person is who they are inspired by. Some of the most interesting people are inspired by others whom we would never emulate, and the question which proceeds is: “Why, then, do we feel so drawn to these people?”
It’s easy to get drawn to the world. There are numerous traps set along the way to convince us we don’t need faith in God and that we don’t need a belief system to live a good life: the flood of dopamine through sex, validation by those who don’t actually care about us yet who we still allow to feed our ego; hedonistic pleasures like drugs which we justify in the name of “living the life,” all implemented by believing pleasure-filled lives is a purpose to embrace. The way I think about it is this: We are attracted to this world because the world doesn’t require us to have faith. Those who are drawn to Christ have had their spiritual eyes opened to the truth of this world’s treasures: Earthly treasures will be wiped away until even a stone is not overturned (Mark 13:2). If we truly believe that, why would we continue to use and practice a lifestyle that will ultimately die and fade away? We are attracted to the humility and love of Jesus when we understand, accept, and have faith that His love will never die. Believing in the hope of Jesus is the difference between abusing our lives in the world while we live in it now (i.e. “living the life” (idolizing sex, drugs, alcohol, etc), or living as if pleasure is “all there is”), and choosing to see life as an opportunity to grow close to the Creator on our way to spend eternity with Him. One must believe in God in order to choose to spend their lifetime growing closer to Him. Rejecting this invitation to eternity is to suffocate the selflessness of our surrendering to the desperately hopeless, constant search for pleasure and Earthly satisfaction.
Humility comes into play for the believer when we face the odds; when adversity strikes and tempts the mind to believe there is nothing better than this. But there is. For every moment of suffering is an eternity of infinite happiness, painlessness, deathlessness, and freedom. A believer believes for all the afflictions of this life, there is hope unlimited in the life to come. There is nothing to fear when there is nothing to lose; there is nothing to lose if all was never had. The only precious treasure never lost or forsaken has been the Truth of Christ, and the love of our Father in Heaven. That love relationship will never fade away, and it will make us for every second of suffering and pain. To have faith in this is to experience humility by seeing the world to come while still journeying our way there in this moment. We are not yet embracing the world to come because we still exist in this one, but our hope aims for that place like a compass; with our eyes focused on the destination that lies ahead.
One day soon we will no longer be on the journey, we will be at our destination, and all of our losses will be accounted for and multiplied by eternity. Truly, if this is your faith, you have nothing to lose here, but everything to gain. If you live like this, selfishness isn’t a thought, but a sacrifice; releasing selfishness to replace it with satisfaction in Christ. Humility is the jewel of the soul, refined and molded by Jesus.
We only need look at what is to come and to live in this moment, knowing for certain it leads to that life. Not with blind hope, not with doubt, and not with fear, but with confidence and perseverance, we march straight for Heaven: No matter the pain, the trouble, or the loss. We seek God face-to-face, and our heart’s desires will be fulfilled for all-time. We’re almost there. Can we cling to Jesus and live in the reality of His humility in a world wearing the blind-folders of sin, confusion, shame, and regret?
“Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34)
Seek the hope of Christ this very moment, and embrace the One who inspires us to live on. He lives in us. With Jesus as our Guide, let the world see us for who we follow—and let them follow Him, too.