There is no denying that the idea of humbling ourselves often puts a bad taste in our mouths. We like to think we are pretty good people and that we are usually right. When I stop to consider this, something about it seems odd to me. Here I am, nothing special by secular standards, finding it difficult to humble myself before other people who are also nothing special by secular standards. It seems even more odd when I consider the definition of humble.
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines humble as “not proud or haughty: not prideful or assertive” and “reflecting, expressing, or offered in a spirit of deference or submission, such as an apology.”
Considering this definition, why would I be unwilling to humble myself before others? By being humble I would be showing I am not prideful or haughty. Certainly those are characteristics most of us would like to avoid perpetuating. One part of this definition I could see someone taking issue with is that humble is partially defined as not being assertive. Assertiveness has its place in society, there is no doubt about that. Without assertiveness there are many things that would be left undone, unaccomplished, and not invented. Yet, like all things, assertiveness has a time and place. If our assertiveness tamps other people down, keeping them from expressing their feelings or opinions, then it is being misused. Therefore, a humble person knows when it is appropriate to be assertive and when it isn’t.
Another part of this definition someone may not like is that it talks about deference and submission. Those are words that many people think of as solely negative in meaning, especially in our American culture. Yet, just like assertiveness, deference and submission have a correct time and place. We have to be able to admit when we are wrong, and doing so requires deferring and submitting to the other person’s judgement and forgiveness. We don’t like doing this because of the way it makes us feel. However, consider what it shows other people. It shows them that you are a big enough, secure enough person to admit when you are mistaken. It shows grace, goodwill, and a pursuit of honesty and integrity.
The Bible is full of examples of people who lead humble lives or had moments of great humility. Jesus Christ is the supreme example of how a humble person should conduct themselves. He never grew angry over trivial issues, He gave those He didn’t agree with a chance to speak their mind, He always deferred to the Lord’s will, He was never too good or too righteous to be seen with tax collectors or prostitutes. Jesus even submitted Himself as the sacrifice for our sins, allowing Himself to be put through great pain and humiliation, all while having the ability to end it all with a word to God.
Job was a man who always trusted in the Lord, no matter what catastrophes befell him. He was careful to avoid evil deeds and temptations. When God allows Satan to test Job’s faith, Job’s humility shines bright. During the course of his testing Job would lose his family, flocks, lands, be afflicted with illness, and endure great natural disasters. Yet, he never fails to praise God in his prayers.
When Daniel interpreted the dreams of King Nebuchadnezzar, he always gave God the credit, keeping none for himself. When he served as King Nebuchadnezzar’s second in command he fulfilled all of his duties to the best of his abilities. Unlike the other wise men Nebuchadnezzar employed, Daniel operated with great integrity and honor. So much so, that despite their religious and ethnic differences, the king loved Daniel and admitted that his God was above all gods.
Considering that humility reflects well on he or she that displays it, and that so many great men have lived their lives by it, shouldn’t we embrace it?