Monday, November 29, 2010


Huh. Just writing that word as a title to a post feels awkward. How does one write about humility? Just to open your mouth on the subject seems proud; "I've got it all together, folks!"

Yeah, right. :)

But I had a thought about the topic yesterday, and I thought I'd share it with you.

What is the definition of humility? Is it thinking humbly about yourself? Yes, of course, right? But what does that mean?

Does that mean you are shy? Does it mean you tell yourself that you "can't do anything"? Does it mean you put yourself down, or are constantly comparing yourself to others, to your own disadvantage? Does it mean that always, at all times, in all places, under all circumstances, you never, ever, forget that you are nothing? Does it mean that you weep over your own horribleness, and are broken over your depravity?

I don't think so. And hold on - I'll give you the reasons why.

First off, consider the person who constantly puts herself down in her mind. I've been that person; constantly berating myself for not being good enough, not being kind enough, not being godly enough, talented enough, sweet enough...the accusations stretched out like a holiday "To Do" list. All of this was done in the name of holy zeal - I wanted to be better.

That isn't bad - to want to be better. It's an inborn instinct of human beings. It is that drive that causes us to work for things, and to become things. And it is that drive that finally, in the end, shows us we aren't good enough.

In the Christian, it is often given the name of "the longing to please our Lord." We know we are sinners, yet we also know we've been saved, and, boy, do we want things to be different now! We know God says "be holy, as I am holy," and with everything in us, we want to obey that command. So we strive for excellence.

But it isn't too long before the truth dawns upon us; we're not "good enough." We're not good enough. Time and time again we fail. We may have it all together on the outside, but we know our own thoughts, our temptations, our wayward minds, our selfishness, our laziness...we know we aren't what we ought to be.

Is this where humbleness comes is? The admitting of how low we really are? The loud embracing of this unworthiness, denying all claims to perfection, or even goodness?

Well, sorta. This is where humbleness comes in, but not in that way.

Because, think about it - why does it bother us that we are flawed? Oooo, doesn't it just drive you mad? That stubborn sin streak - why must it persist? You'd better believe I hate it.

And, not too long ago, I hated myself. For having that sin streak. For being the flawed child. For not being what I wanted to be. Oh, I was so mad at myself!

Because I wasn't what I wanted to be.

Did you catch the number of times I used "I" or "me" in the previous three paragraphs? Six times, to be exact. And every sentence was focused on the trials of yours truly.

That's why I believe that attitude, that anger at myself, isn't true humility; it's focused on me. I'm sad because this precious, treasured being of mine isn't as beautiful as I want it to be. I want me to be perfect. Isn't this the sum of pride?

I was so afraid of the other sort of pride - the kind that says "I don't have to worry about my character. I'm already perfect," that I slipped into the pride of the other extreme - frustration at my flaws.

Just for the record, I'm not talking about a healthy hatred of sin. I wasn't mad because it was sin - I was mad because it was in me, and "me" wasn't supposed to have anything wrong with her. See the difference?

So here's what I count as the definition of true humility. My thoughts and heart on the topic had already changed, a few months ago, but I hadn't formulated it into a cohesive thought until yesterday:

Humility: "Knowing the truth and being content in it."

Knowing the truth. Not what I feel, but what God tells me is true. Truth is "are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?" (Gal. 3:3) Truth is "I have loved thee with an everlasting love." (Jer. 31:3) Truth is that God will finish that which He starts - including making me perfect one day, when I stand before Him in Heaven. Truth is that He loves me now, as I am, still flawed, but His precious child. Truth is that I need to hate sin because God does, not for selfish reasons. Truth is that He put talents in me that He expects me to use, not deny. Truth is that He made me untalented at other things. Truth is that God loves me. (I just had to say that one more time!:)

Being content in it. I must come to terms with this truth. I must trust God's truth. I must trust that what He decrees is best. But isn't He worthy of my trust? Absolutely! I owe Him everything.

So I can know that I'm not so good at some things, and trust that He doesn't need me to be doing that particularly well - He plans to use the weakness for His glory.

I can know that if I can do something well, He made me to use that. And it would be wrong to deny it. I can be confident, gracious, and quietly content, instead of wrestling with fears of "should I be up here doing this? What will people think of me?"

I can know that I am still loved when I sin, and that I should rejoice loudly in His forgiveness, rather than bewail the fact that I had to accept it. I used to be really afraid of this - I mean, come on - "accept the fact that I sin? Are you crazy, Amber? If you start believing this nonsense about rejoicing in God's forgiveness, you'll lose your fear of sin, and you'll lose your conscience!" Nothing could be farther from the truth. The confidence I have in my Father's love and forgiveness creates such a wellspring of thankfulness and love in me that I cannot bear the thought of sinning against Him.

I don't think I've solved the problem of pride. That, I'm afraid, I will wrestle with until I reach Heaven. But it helps to know that humility isn't a false abasing of myself, a loathing of myself. In fact, it isn't about myself at all. It's a quiet resting in the grace of God, and trusting that He knows what He's doing with me. It's all about Him.

Isn't He wonderful?


Melanie said...

This was a wonderful post, Amber! I totally agree with what you said! Humility is all about putting our eyes on Christ, not on ourselves!
Thanks so much for posting! :-)

Amanda said...

Good thoughts!! Thanks for sharing! And I don't think you sound proud at all. :)

SavedGirl said...

Wow Amber, that was so good. I love how you can always make me think (and squirm :)). Your definition of humility was so good, it reminded me to pay attention to what my favorite book, Philippians, says. One thing that I as a writer struggle with in regards to humility is my stories. I like it when people read my stories, I feel like it makes all the time and effort worth something. But I don't want that to be a prideful thing of wanting them to read MY stories. I want it to affect them and be used in their life. It is such a hard balance. Thanks so much for posting.


Amber said...

Thanks, Ladies. :)

Lulu - I love the book of Philippians, too! :)

Rose said...

Wow, great post!
I have thought on the same topic for a long time, and never felt free to put down on paper either, for fear of that seeming proud.... so I'm glad you did! It is an area that baffles and troubles and plagues me, but that is part of Christianity, I feel sure.
I guess the part that was so true for me was where you said about how many times you referred to yourSELF in speaking of sin in yourself... that you were mad at yourself rather than the sin! I have struggled all my Christian life with that - being bad at and beating down self because of sin instead of seeing it as sin and looking to the Father for forgiveness; and then learning to leave the past behind and press toward the mark.
So, thank you for your post!
Philippians is one of my favorite books as well (I'm determined to memorize the rest of it in 2011!)

~ Rose from NY