We live in an extremely narcissistic world with the wrong perception of self worth, where humility is seen as pride and pride is seen as humility. Self obsession has not only become accepted, but encouraged. All our focus is placed on ourselves, our abilities, our comfort, our success. Whilst I agree that self love and care is extremely essential, as you have to love yourself first before you can love others (Matthew 22:39), there is a distortion between true self love and what the world teaches as self love.
In today's society, we’re no longer encouraged to serve one another. The word, "serve" is deemed inferior, and the idea of serving others doesn't seem glamorous. It’s looked on as being weak, and it takes a humble person to see the beauty in serving.
People always ask the question, “how can you be humble and confident at the same time?” Humility is confidence. I strongly believe that the most confident person in the world is also the most humble.
Take this scenario. Jack is walking down the streets of London texting on his phone, so he's a bit distracted and bumps into a man. The man turns around and gets very angry, shouting and swearing at Jack. This then gets Jack angry. It was an accidental bump, what's all the fuss about? Likewise, Jack starts shouting and swearing. How dare the man speak to him like that?
Assume the same scenario where the man screams at Jack, but this time, Jack resists responding in anger. He looks past the man's aggression and wonders what he must be going through to react in such an exaggerated manner. Jack grows compassion for this man.
In which scenario would you say Jack is more confident? The one where he thinks about himself and how he deserved to be treated better by the man, or the one where his focus is on the man and as a result develops compassion for him? Prideful Jack or humble Jack? Now that you've been given real-life examples, you'd probably agree with me in saying that humble Jack is the more confident one. Yet, we still easily believe the lie that we have to insist on our right, know our worth and fight for it. Many of us, either consciously or unconsciously, believe that humility is weakness. I dare say that humility is one of the strongest character traits you could ever possess.
My bible describes "prautes", the Greek word for humility, as the following:
“Prautes, according to Aristotle, is the middle standing between two extremes, getting angry without reason, and not getting angry at all. It is the result of a strong man’s choice to control his reactions in submission to God. It is a balance born in strength of character, stemming from confident trust in God, not from weakness or fear.”
Only a humble man would be able to say, "Father forgive them for they don’t know what they are doing", when faced persecution (Luke 23:34). Looking past someone’s actions to their brokenness, removing the focus from yourself and your pride at being hurt, and focusing on the person with genuine care for their wellbeing.
Humility does not mean people-pleasing, neither does it mean thinking lowly of yourself. When the bible talks about esteeming others above yourself (Philippians 2:3), I believe God wants us to focus on others, not belittle ourselves. Humility isn't thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less. It is when you are in a place of wholeness and you are confident in who you are in Christ that you are able to put others above yourself (check out my blog post here where I speak on loving people from a place of wholeness).
It’s easy to mistake pride for humility and humility for pride. True humility is confidence, and pride is actually insecurity, but for some reason we’ve believed it’s the other way around. I can boldly rebuke my friend in love, not because I’m prideful or I think I’m better, but because I’m actually not thinking of myself at all, but my friend. In the same way, me shying away from being honest with my friend about her shortcomings is actually pride, as I esteem myself higher than her wellbeing.
Humility isn't weakness. It isn't taking the easy way out. In fact, often times it's taking the more difficult route. Humility isn’t always easy or nice. It is to be boldly nonconforming, and to seek the truth over harmony. (Proverbs 27:6)
We should all strive to serve others. We should all seek to esteem others above ourselves. We should all aim to go above and beyond for people, making ourselves uncomfortable to make others comfortable. The whole meaning of life is relationship. Relationship with God first and foremost, then relationship with his people.
I'll leave you with this quote by CS Lewis in Mere Christianity:
"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."