Mac Davis had a country western hit called “Lord, its hard to be humble when you are perfect in every way.” The song was Davis’ tongue-in-cheek reflection on reaching the top of the ladder in the music business and being all alone. Humility is not a virtue embraced by most people who are climbing their social ladder, whether in school, sports, business or society. Yet humility is something the Christian faith advocates, “Humble yourself in the sight of the Lord” (James 4:10).
Robert C. Roberts in his book, Spiritual Emotions: A Psychology of Christian Virtue, writes that in our culture we often confuse humility with humiliation. We think that a humble person must lack confidence in his abilities and judgments.
He does not initiate projects and human relationships. He would rather follow orders than give them, would rather have others make the decisions in his life. His failures (or his genes) have rendered him a psychologically passive personality, a Mr. Milquetoast who does not object to being told where to sit and wait, or even to being utilized as a convenient wiping-place for muddy feet. Anyone who undertook to cultivate this disposition in his children would be doing them a momentous disservice. This is not humility, but rather a deeply engrained and ramified humiliation. (Kindle Locations 1092-1094).
Roberts goes on to demonstrate that the opposite of humility is not self-confidence, initiative, or assertiveness, but rather always comparing one’s self to the people around you, to make sure you are further up the social ladder or pecking order than someone else. Attitudes such as:
pushiness, scorn of “inferiors,” rejoicing in the downfall of others, envy, resentment and grudge-bearing, ruthless ambition, haughtiness, shame at failure or disadvantageous comparison, and the need to excel others so as to think well of oneself.
We are taught by our culture to rank how well we are doing by the clothes we wear, the cars we drive, the schools our children attend or the jobs we do. To be top-ranked means I must be “better” than those who are lower in rank. Or I “scorn” or “envy” those of higher rank because I am “beneath” them.
Roberts goes to describe what humility is and its significance for true spiritual fellowship.
Humility is the ability, without prejudice to one’s self-comfort, to admit one’s inferiority, in this or that respect, to another. And it is the ability, without increment to one’s self-comfort or prejudice to the quality of one’s relationship with another, to remark one’s superiority, in this or that respect, to another. As such, humility is a psychological principle of independence from others and a necessary ground of genuine fellowship with them, an emotional independence of one’s judgments concerning how one ranks vis-a-vis other human beings. (Kindle Locations 1118-1122).
Humility is the ability to see all people as equal in some fundamental way.
Next, I will post on the Christian source of humility.
What are some other ways that you believe humility has been misunderstood?
Lord Jesus, thank you for your humility that saves me.