Do not imagine that if you meet a really humble man he will be what most people call ‘humble’ nowadays: he will not be a sort of greasy, smarmy person, who is always telling you that, of course, he is nobody. Probably all you will think about him is that he seemed a cheerful, intelligent chap who took a real interest in what you said to him. If you do dislike him it will be because you feel a little envious of anyone who seems to enjoy life so easily. He will not be thinking about humility: he will not be thinking about himself at all.
If anyone would like to acquire humility, I can, I think, tell him the first step. The first step is to realise that one is proud. And a biggish step, too. At least, nothing whatever can be done before it. If you think you are not conceited, it means you are very conceited indeedC.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity.
This section in Mere Christianity rocked my world when I was in college. The chapter is about the deadly sin of Pride, and its opposing virtue, Humility. Reading the true definitions of these terms, along with Lewis’s devastating diagnostic questions made me realize that I was awfully proud, and needed to embark on a very different approach to life.
If your religion is mainly a free pass to look down your nose on others, a weapon to give strength to your disgust and contempt for those who don’t measure up, a tool for manipulating others into ‘sacrificing’ their own needs in service to your desires–then your religion is not Christianity.
Christianity describes the essential human problem as Pride–seeking to be God, setting myself up as the center of life, seeking to get life to orbit around my wishes, hopes, and desires. What’s the solution? Humility–demonstrated by the humility of Christ:
Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
We are to imitate the Most Humble One: “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus”
How? Where to begin? Two quick thoughts:
- Humility is not self deprecation. The antidote to pride is not to heap abuse and insult on your person. In fact, that’s even more pride–because when you’re self deprecating, you’re still thinking about you. Besides, humility is about realism. If you lower your opinion about yourself lower than appropriate, you’re still distorting reality just as much as when you cherished secret thoughts of grandeur.
- You’ll never get to a place where you don’t think about yourself at all. You still need to eat, sleep, wash, etc. However, you can get to a place where you’re so focused on serving those around you that you’ve effectively put your own interests where they belong–not jockeying for greatness, but looking for opportunities to serve. Jesus tells his bickering disciples to wash one another’s feet.
Just like He does.