A humble person draws others to them, but that’s in part because true humility is so rare, so how do we cultivate it in ourselves?
Dave Anderson, author of Becoming a Leader of Character, wrote about one defining moment for some friends of a famous politician.
“Sam Rayburn served as the Speaker of the House of Representatives in the United States Congress for seventeen years. As the Speaker of the House, Sam Rayburn wielded incredible power and prestige. He was third in the line of succession to the presidency.
“One day, he found out that the teenage daughter of a reporter friend had tragically died. Early the next morning, Sam Rayburn knocked on the door of his friend. When the door opened, Rayburn asked if there was anything he could do. His friend stammered and replied, ‘I don’t think there is anything you can do. We are making all the arrangements.
“’Well, have you had your coffee this morning?’ Rayburn asked.
“’No. We haven’t had time.’ said the grieving man.
“’Well,’ the Speaker of the House replied, ‘I can at least make the coffee.’
“As he watched this powerful man make him coffee, the father suddenly remembered something. ‘Mr. Speaker, I thought you were supposed to be having breakfast at the White House this morning.’
“’Well I was, but I called the President and told him I had a friend who was in trouble, and I couldn’t come.’”
The Three Ostentatious Points
The Greater Good Magazine posted an article entitled “How Humility Will Make You the Greatest Person Ever”, and all I could think was Yeah, probably, but doesn’t that defeat the point of learning how to be more humble?
Their three points for cultivating humility were as follows:
Embrace your own intrinsic value, which comes from developing close relationships with people who unconditionally accept you.
Practice mindfulness and self-compassion by becoming more aware of your inner dialog and replacing negative thoughts with positive ones.
Express your gratitude for the gifts life gives you and acknowledge the value of other people around you.
Like their title already demonstrated, their points are both right and just a hair off but in the same way that missing the mark by an inch or two is significant while walking a tightrope over a cliff. The key factor missing in their equation for humility is the divine, holy and intimate Creator.
“Peter says we are to clothe ourselves in humility,” Gary Wilkerson notes in a devotion. “I always thought humility meant stripping off things, taking away, getting down to nothing. But Peter is saying humility is putting on certain things.
“One of the ways to grow in humility is to put your complete trust in God. ‘Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.’ (1 Peter 5:7, NIV). It is impossible to cast your cares onto the Lord until you first know that he is mighty; you would not cast your cares on God if you thought he was going to let you down or fail you.
“Humility frees us from the arrogance of saying, ‘I can take care of myself,’ and empowers us to trust the strong hand of God. It brings us to a place of peace, grounded and established in him.”
Growing in humility often, paradoxically, has very little to do with thinking about being humble or focusing on yourself at all.
Rewriting the World’s Rulebook
If we were to rewrite the three values named in that article with God in the picture, they might go something like this.
1. Embrace the intrinsic value God gives you.
No human being will ever unconditionally accept everything about you; only God sees your every thought and still loves you.
Rusty George explains the concept of confidence in God’s value beautifully, “Perhaps the best way for us to understand this is in how Paul sums up this entire passage on boasting and weakness, pride and humility: ‘If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness’ 2 Corinthians 11:30
“If needed…I’ll read you my résumé. If needed…I’ll list my faults. But everything is for the cause of the One I follow, Christ Jesus. I know my part. Paul seems to know what to be confident in. And it has everything to do with playing his part for Christ. I know who I am, I know whose I am.”
God made us in his image which gives us great intrinsic value, but we didn’t do anything to earn that or deserve it in the first place.
2. Practice mindfulness and become more aware of your inner dialog.
Mindfulness gets a bad rap in Christian communities because of its associations with New Age thinking, but it literally just means being aware of your own thoughts and emotions.
C. S. Lewis wrote, “How is it that people who are quite obviously eaten up with Pride can say they believe in God and appear to themselves very religious? I am afraid it means they are worshipping an imaginary God. They theoretically admit themselves to be nothing in the presence of this phantom God, but are really all the time imagining how He approves of them and thinks them far better than ordinary people…”
Those judgmental thoughts or snide little put-downs we whisper in the back of our heads could tell us a lot about our view of God if we were a little more mindful.
Sin creeps up on us all, but it doesn’t have to stay and make itself at home. If we’re quick to become aware of our propensity to be harsh and unloving to others, we can turn to God and ask for forgiveness, and he can reset our hearts and minds.
3. Express your gratitude for the gifts that God gives you and acknowledge the value of other people around you.
Gratitude is golden. The famous theologian G. K. Chesterton wrote, “I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought, and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.
“You say grace before meals. All right. But I say grace before the concert and the opera, and grace before the play and pantomime, and grace before I open a book, and grace before sketching, painting, swimming, fencing, boxing, walking, playing, dancing and grace before I dip the pen in the ink.”
This constant stream of thank-yous is not paying lip-service to God but genuinely become aware of how many good things God has given us and recognizing that we move through the world only by his grace and goodness.
Walk Humbly With God
So where were we? Oh, yes. Humility.
Focus too much on it, and evanescent humility vanishes. Focus on the right things, or rather the Right Thing (i.e. our Father), and humility quietly approaches like some kind of shy woodland critter that will flee the moment you look directly at it. This is an ongoing call in our lives in believers.
“He [God] has told you, O man, what is good;
and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8, ESV).
If we accept the intrinsic value God places on us, then we must similarly see it in others, which means we will demand just treatment for other people. If we ask God to rebuke our tendency towards pride and comparison, then we will live gently and conscientiously with our neighbors and family.
If we live in constant gratitude to God, we are accepting that we depend on him for provision and protection, fruitful work and restful sleep.
In this way, we walk humbly with our Father.