Realized wretchedness does not equal humility

You hear it all the time, especially in gospel-centered circles, people saying how wretched they are and how loved they are in spite of it. True and true. But when I hear me reminding myself over and over how wretched I am, seems a lot of attention is, well, on me. And that’s when I realized that my realized wretchedness does not equal humility. I can say that with gospel certainty because Jesus was not the least bit wretched, but he was humble.

Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. – Mt. 11:29 NLT

So humility isn’t the constant reminder to ourselves or others of how wretched we are, since Christ never did either.

So if humility isn’t a self-imposed self-loathing, what is it? Here are some of my favorite non-self-loathing interpretations of humility, in the form of quotes from others, some believers, some not-

“Humility is like underwear, essential, but indecent if it shows” – Helen Nielsen

“To become truly great, one has to stand with people, not above them.” –  Charles de Montesquieu

“The more you lose yourself in something bigger than yourself, the more energy you will have.” – Norman Vincent Peale

“Humility is the foundation of all the other virtues hence, in the soul in which this virtue does not exist there cannot be any other virtue except in mere appearance.” – Augustine

“Humility is to make a right estimate of one’s self.” – Spurgeon

“Pride makes us artificial and humility makes us real” – Thomas Merton

“The proud man can learn humility, but he will be proud of it”  – Mignon McLaughlin

The last two quotes sum up my caution to myself and anyone else who hears. Because when I’m trying to be someone I’m not, that’s pride, even if I’m trying to be someone humble, copying someone else’s ‘wretched’ speech. Learned (copied) humility will always be a source of pride. Here’s praying that I can have a right view of myself all the while losing myself in someone much bigger.

Your turn: do you ever find yourself trying to be humble? Does it backfire on you like it does me? How does “losing your self in something bigger” make a difference between learned and true humility?

One comment on “Realized wretchedness does not equal humility

  1. Just discovered your site today and so far I’m finding it very interesting:)

    Sound words in your post. It seems as Christians we often feel if we belittle ourselves, call ourselves wretched everyday it makes GOD seem bigger. But this is not the case. Out of the quotes you shared, I especially liked the one by Spurgeon. It reminds me that while I am a sinner and wretched, GOD loved me enough to send His Son, Jesus Christ to die for me. So instead of calling attention to myself, as you rightly put it, I should be placing emphasis on the GOD I serve and love.

    I no longer attempt to portray myself as a humble person as I have always been of the opinion that a truly humble person does not call himself humble. I now acknowledge my strengths and weaknesses and realise that GOD can use both to bring honour and glory to His name. I have learned that I am truly humble when I realise that it is never about me but all about Him, and my desire ought to be to serve and please Him…so I take the spotlight off me and put it on Him, who more than deserves it:).

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