In Walt Morey’s story “Gentle Ben”, an adult bear helped a trapped man. This was the same man who had hunted the bear down just a little while ago. Gentle giants are that way – they could squash a person in a moment’s notice, but they choose to save a life instead.
There is a direct link between freedom and humility, demonstrated by the life of God’s Son. Jesus knew the secret of relinquishing power and not holding on to any privileges. Paul described the nature of Jesus in a letter to the Philippians in East Macedonia, and here are his remarks (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!”
The Son of God was not forced to become a human being; it clearly was His choice. Nobody took His life from Him. He voluntarily gave it away. And by doing so He opened the door to freedom. There is a big difference between relinquishing our power because we have to and relinquishing our power even if we don’t have to do it. That’s the way of humility.
Don’t let false humility deter you – wherever there is fraud, the original is not far away; so all we need to do is keep looking. We recognize false humility in people acting like doormats. That’s not what humility is all about. 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.”
The Lord knows Who He Is. And as humble people, we also know who we are. Learning from the gentle Giant, the great I Am, we become gentle and humble in heart and find rest for our souls.
Heaven runs on humility because God is humble; genuine humility originates in Him.
We can learn humility by watching how God’s Spirit operates. Thanks to the Holy Spirit we have life on Earth. It was the Spirit of God who hovered over chaos in the story of our creation and turned it into a Garden of Eden. And it was thanks to the power of the Holy Spirit that Jesus was raised from the dead.
Despite all of His power, the Spirit of God is still respectful of our boundaries. If we vote against Him, He respects our decision, even if it is detrimental to our well-being. The gentle Spirit of God is the best example of humility I can think of. He does not overpower us, He guides us only if we ask Him to, and He immediately withdraws if He is not welcome.
How do we humble ourselves? I believe we humble ourselves by surrendering completely into God’s almighty hands.
In the palm of His hand we find ourselves. We are God’s creation – intricate and complicated, mysterious and wonderful – a reflection of our wonderful and mysterious Creator. However, if we forget that, we become disjointed and self-centered. And now we begin to blow things out of proportion as we lose our grip on reality.
Surrendered to God we are grounded in the truth. The closer we draw to God, the humbler we become. He puts things into perspective without belittling us. God the Giant and we His little dwarfs is definitely not His idea. He is our Father and He is “giantly” in love with His creation. We are considered family.
Our significance derives from the Lord. He made us, He is endeared to us and we have His undivided attention. In God’s eyes we are very special. We stand out because He is the One who lifts us up. In the palm of His hand we can truly be ourselves, and maybe this is what humility is all about.
As much as our economy runs on ambition and competition, the kingdom of heaven runs on humility. In short, heaven is a society of humble citizens.
In our everyday dealings with people humility is a rarity. Hence, humility is often misunderstood. We are hooked on the Adrenalin of getting ahead and securing our place in this world, so much so that we can’t imagine living life differently. Well, it all starts with taking a genuine interest in other beings (human beings included).
Humility – What a concept! James wrote in one of his letters (James 3:13):
“If you are wise and understand God’s ways, prove it by living an honorable life, doing good works with the humility that comes from wisdom.”* (*New Living Translation)
Humility stems from wisdom. The wiser we are the humbler we become. Life has a way of humbling us, and that’s a good thing. I believe that blunders, failures, frustrations and roadblocks are encouraging growth in wisdom. We learn empathy. How else could we relate to other people’s misfortunes if not through misfortunes of our own? The frustrations that we go through bring us closer together. We realize we are “only” human. We recognize our limitations.
We will grow a crop of wisdom if we open our eyes wide and see other people around us fighting the same battle as we do. We will become intrigued by other people’s stories. The bedrock of all charity work is both noticing and listening. We are not blind to a need, and we are not deaf to a good suggestion. Living this way, we reflect the lifestyle of heaven. It’s beautiful and inspiring.
Notice a stranger today. Pay attention to the undercurrent of a conversation. Follow one of these rabbit trails and you will probably learn something new. You might even end up encouraging someone – and that’s the beauty of humility.
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.
Paul mailed a letter from prison to his friends in Ephesus, which is situated in modern day Turkey. Previously, he had been arrested for no other reason than publicly expressing his beliefs. He could have turned bitter over unfair treatment. Instead, the first thing Paul wrote in his letter was this [Ephesus 4:2]:
“Be completely humble and gentle;”
This morning as I was browsing the Internet, I listened to a song of Lori McKenna’s. Her song lyrics caught my attention, one phrase in particular:
“Bitterness keeps you from flying, always be humble and kind.”* [*Source: Lori McKenna’s song “Humble & Kind,” off her 2016 album, “The Bird & The Rifle”]
Nobody likes a bitter person. Bitterness is rooted in traumatic events that were not properly addressed. God knows we go through some rough patches sometimes. Dealing with our emotions as we are processing loss should be our number one priority. A broken heart cannot be unbroken, but it can be healed if we admit to our brokenness. A hardened heart on the other hand will continue to be stuck in trauma with little chance to move on.
We hate being broken and bruised. It is humbling to admit failure. And yet, buried in our humility lies a kernel of hope: our weakness of today pours into our strength of tomorrow. Bad experiences can promote understanding, and our newfound empathy will turn us into better neighbors.
If we have looked into Paul’s story, then we know that gentleness was not his strong suit, but his life turned around when he met Jesus; Paul allowed Jesus access to his heart, and that profoundly changed him.
We won’t be the same if we allow Jesus access to our hearts. Jesus is humility and kindness impersonated, and we can learn from Him. There is a lot of pain out there, and I believe this world hurts a great deal less with a good dose of humility and gentleness.