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?