Proverbs 11:2: “When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.”

I used to be one of those people who tried very hard to blend in. Not a lot of confidence and no desire to be in the spotlight whatsoever! At school I kept to myself, stayed away from cliques and when the time came to choose my profession I was mortified to just imagine myself teaching in front of a classroom full of students. My Art Teacher believed I was exceptionally talented. “I’m not going to be a starving artist” is all I said. “And teaching? No way am I going to teach!” We can be blinded by fear. I didn’t choose my profession based on my passion. I chose my profession based on fear.

We can also be blinded by pride. When I think about the times when I thought I knew something and didn’t pay attention to anybody else’s input, I wince today because it never bode well for me. When I’m convinced that I am right (and everybody else is wrong) then my ears are shut and I have a hard time taking in what others have to say. That’s how pride operates. Pride is exclusive, not inclusive. There is much to be said about seeking a second opinion. We always need to be curious enough to listen to both sides of a story.

With an open mind comes humility, and with humility comes wisdom.

Humans can produce false humility, even though humility can’t be faked. It is not humble to say: “Oh I’m no good!” False humility is supposed to make us look humble by exaggerating how bad we are. Let’s not forget that God created us – don’t you think He did an amazing job? God created us to be His children and to walk in power, love and self-discipline. This certainly does not resemble the little-worm-mentality suggested by fake humility.

There is no shortcut to genuine humility. It develops while walking with God. He is using our life experiences to humble us. And it takes time – a reason why the less experienced among us may have trouble relating to humility. However, the good news is, regardless who we are, where we are from, which culture we grow up in, walking with the Lord will gradually change us over time.

Like a landscape artist, God fertilizes and prunes us to the point that we are sprouting, branching out, and bearing fruit. When God looks at us, He sees potential. He gives each of us something special to do. We are meant to be a blessing.

Thanks to God we get to know who we really are. That’s so exciting! He also keeps us levelheaded as He helps us through the tougher times. He frees us to be humble, and humility is the best! Nothing is impossible to a humble person walking with God Almighty.

Matthew 11:29: “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”

There is a direct link between freedom and humility, demonstrated by the life of God’s Son. Paul described Jesus in his letter to the Philippians, city dwellers in Eastern Macedonia. Here is what he wrote: (Philippians 2:5-8)

“In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:

Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross!”

Jesus knew the secret of relinquishing power and not holding on to any privileges. Although incarcerated and eventually put to death, his heart remained free because it was His choice to submit to a gruesome death penalty which nailed Him to two wooden beams. Nobody took His life from Him. He voluntarily gave it away.

There’s a huge difference between submitting because we have to, and choosing to submit even if we don’t have to. Gentle giants are that way, giants who could squash a person in a moment’s notice but instead choose to save this person’s life – as in Walt Morey’s story of “Gentle Ben”, featuring an adult bear helping a trapped man who moments ago was hunting him down. The bear didn’t have to help the man, but did so anyway.

Similarly, Jesus didn’t have to become human and go through the anguish of death by torture, but He did. And by doing so He opened the door to freedom. As trapped as we might feel, stuck in fierce self-defense to protect our selfish pride, there is a way out, and it is the way of humility.

Humility got a bad rep through false humility – however, wherever there’s fraud, the original is not very far, so all we need to do is keep looking! We sense false humility when we hear people describe themselves as doormats. That’s no humility, that’s spreading lies about oneself. Nobody is born a doormat, and nobody should become one either. When Jesus was asked who He was, He did not answer: I’m a doormat. He answered (all quotes taken from John’s Gospel):

“I am the bread of life. I am the light of the world. I am the good shepherd. I am God’s Son. I am the resurrection and the life.”

As a humble person I know who I am, and nothing can change that – neither life circumstances, nor personal make-overs. I shall always remain the one-of-a-kind original God has crafted and coded into my DNA, and nobody can replace me either. While this may sound outrageous and not at all humble, the same can be said about you. So my uniqueness is not better than yours.

Armed with humility, nobody can take away our dignity because after all, we are who we are! Yoked to the gentle giant, God, we shall remain free, even when the tides are turned against us.

“I know you’ve got mountains to climb; always stay humble and kind!”
Lori McKenna

Ephesians 4:2: “Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love.”

Paul mailed a letter from prison to his friends in Ephesus (which is modern day Turkey). Previously, he had been arrested for no other reason than publicly expressing his beliefs. He could have gotten hung up on injustice and unfair treatment. Instead, the first thing Paul wrote in his letter was this (Ephesus 4:2):

“Always be humble and gentle.”

This morning as I was browsing the Internet, I listened to Tim McCraw’s rendition of “Humble and kind”. One part of the song lyrics got my attention. Here it is:

“Bitterness keeps you from flying, always be humble and kind.”

In the comment section of this particular video clip Lessie Perreves wrote:

“Even though I’ve been raised on this whole rule the song proposes, I do get really bitter/salty sometimes. Whenever that happens, I listen to this. It helps me feel better and helps remind me no one likes a bitter jerk.”

God knows we go through some really bad situations sometimes. Dealing with our emotions as we’re processing loss is our number one priority. Bitterness is not very attractive and actually adds to our existing problems because nobody wants to be in the presence of a “bitter jerk” as Lessie so rightly observes.

If we’re going through an awful experience we need to allow our hearts to be broken. As painful as it sounds and as counter intuitive as it seems, ultimately only a broken heart can be healed. A hardened heart on the other hand will continue to be stuck in trauma and won’t be able to heal.

It’s humbling to admit failure. It’s humbling to accept we’re broken and bruised. In our humility however always lies the kernel of hope that our weakness of today pours into our strength of tomorrow. Bad experiences can make us stronger and as a byproduct create empathy. Our newfound empathy will make us a better friend, parent, coworker, and spouse.

Let’s take it from Paul who has weathered quite a few storms: always be humble and gentle, my friend!

Psalm 45:1: “God is our refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble.”

Helpless babes remind us how we used to be. We were very needy little boys and girls when we cried for food and for a change of diaper. Little children are that way. They cannot survive without a caregiver.

However, time moves on, and as we mature into adulthood we find ourselves perhaps reluctant to acknowledge a need.  Meanwhile we’ve been taught how to depend on ourselves. Maybe on top of that we ran into some unreliable people, and now we will try even harder to become more and more self-sufficient. So, we work hard, we get insured, we save money, and spend a lot of time developing various systems designed to protect ourselves and our loved ones. Good luck with that one! Ever noticed that even the best systems have its limitations? In the end, self-reliant people are doomed to get disappointed and very frustrated.

Entering God into the equation of life is like a breath of fresh air. We are so much better off realizing our need for God. A shift of our world view happens as soon as we start relying on God. A follower of Jesus, whose name is John, wrote about reliance on God’s love in one of his letters (1 John 4:16):

“And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.”

We all need God’s love. Similar to little children who need their parents, we cannot live without Him. His absence promotes dysfunction in literally every area of our lives. On the other hand, His presence will definitely pull us through our darkest hours – we only need to open up to Him and let Him in. When we are down and out and reach out to God He will become our refuge and strength. His love will encourage us; His Spirit will lead us. And maybe at a later time, when we are privileged to be on the mountain top of success we will remember how we got there in the first place. You guessed it: by the grace of God. It’s a great thing to realize, isn’t it? Humility rocks!

By the way, humility is a crown best worn on mentioned mountain top, and here is why: it helps us stay grounded. All mountain tops will eventually pass. Just around the corner new experiences and unknown challenges are waiting for us; and armed with humility we will have a better chance of negotiating the rough territory of life’s crazy surprises.

Realizing that we are not self-made is a God-given light bulb moment. I personally had this light bulb moment as a teenager when I asked God to introduce Himself to me. He did when I realized that He truly exists and that I am indeed His creation.

Our first step into humility is to notice that we are in fact created. Our second step is to realize that we are incomplete. God created us, and He completes us. The more this truth sinks in, the humbler we become.

A happy side-effect: a humble person will actually notice when someone is down. They are “rainy day people” who can relate because they’ve been through a rain storm or two (I am using Gordon Lightfoot’s endearing terminology here). Humility transforms us into human beings genuinely interested in other people, which is akin to God’s interest in people. And if we handle people with care God profoundly delights in us, and He will in turn bless us wherever we go.

“Rainy day lovers don’t lie when they tell you,

They’ve been down like you.

Rainy day people don’t mind

If you’re cryin’ a tear or two.” (Gordon Lightfoot)