As human beings, our prideful nature usually calls us to focus on ourselves the ”I” and “Me”. The simplest definition of humility is not being focused on self.
Too often and in many situations, we let our egos get in the way. It becomes important to us how we feel others will think of us or what we think they will say about us. It is humility that calls us away from absorption in ourselves.
The practice of humility is often expressed in varying ways in different circumstances: A person may not be characteristically humble, but people can be humbled, can act humbly, or show humility in a situation. We are admonished by God’s Word in James 3:13 to demonstrate humility in how we live: “Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in humility that comes from wisdom.”
Humility does not mean that one is subservient, poor or downtrodden; rather humility is best demonstrated in persons of means and of high stature, such as is demonstrated in the following story:
Many years ago, a rich and famous man, who was the leader of a King’s army, got sick. He was told that a Prophet in Israel could heal him. The prophet advised the man that he should dip seven times in the Jordan River. The man refused to follow the instructions because, first the prophet did not speak with him directly but sent the word through a messenger. Secondly, the leader felt that the directions given him were demeaning to dip in water outside of his own country.
Watching the man continue to suffer, one of his servants encouraged him to follow the prophet’s advice. He humbled himself and listening to his servant, went to the river and dipped seven times as he had been advised by the prophet. He was then healed of his illness. He had divested himself of his stature before his servant; he became naked of fear and shame. It was his humility that led to his healing 5 (Read 2 Kings 5:1-15).
The writer of Psalm 25:9 tells us that God guides the humble in what is right and teaches them His way. I was thoroughly schooled by my father God through the most humbling experience in my life. Although it occurred close to thirty years ago, I can still remember it as vividly as if it happened yesterday.
I was new on a job in the City of Chicago. At the Annual Christmas party, team members exchanged gifts. Joy and laughter filled the room as team members opened their gifts with anticipation and oohhed and aahed in delight at their bounty.
I opened my gift and much to my consternation, I was left shocked and speechless. My gift was two cans of Conch Chowder soup.
The person who gave me my gift looked at me expectantly, but rather than a delightful pleasure, the most I could give was a weak smile that was hopelessly insincere. I mumbled thanks and tried to rewrap my gift quickly while the others around the table tried to hide their snickers and helpless mirth behind their hands or with feigned disinterest.
The night I received that gift, I felt serious shame and embarrassment. The only thing I could think at the time was, my co-workers would probably think that I was given the soup, because I was a single mother. Did the giver feel that things were so bad for me that she had to buy me cans of soup? Did the giver think so little of me that she had put little thought into buying a gift for me? Was it something that she had retrieved from her cupboard at the last minute?
This story of the two cans of Conch Chowder as a Christmas gift became legendary. Years and years later, the story would be repeated each time my friends and I got together.
Each time the story was repeated, I could feel myself blushing with embarrassment (I’m black so that experience translates as a suffusion of heat).
One day as the story was being told and I was sheepishly conceding that I had indeed been wronged, from out of the blue , my memory recalled a conversation with my gift giver a few weeks before that infamous party.
I had not been home to The Bahamas in close to a year, Christmas was coming and again I had no plans to go home. When I had mentioned this, my gift giver had said, ”Oh, we will have to see what we can do about that.” My recollection of that conversation was an epiphany – I saw then, that my gift giver, knowing that I was not going home had decided to bring some of home to me and the Conch Chowder was her way of doing that; therefore, the gift had been a very thoughtful one.
How easy it had been for me to miss the message. My pride had gotten in the way. Recalling this incident even now is a reminder of the words attributed to a well known Chicago theologian, D.L. Moody: “Be humble or you will stumble.”
Jesus Christ is our best example of humility. The King of King and Lord of Lords was born in a humble setting, lived humbly and consistently practiced humility in his dealings with those around him. We are told at Philippians 2:8 that Jesus Christ humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death-even to death on a cross.
Humility, often not easily achieved, allows one to be comfortable for each situation and circumstance as necessary.
The contentment inherent in humility allows a person to be freed of worry about matters that become inconsequential under the scrutiny of time. A coveted characteristic that is of great value, true humility when achieved brings a peace that greatly enhances one’s well-being.