Philippians 2:3-4: “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.”

Ambition and competition is the engine of capitalism. However, the Kingdom of Heaven runs on humility.

Heaven is a society of humble citizens, which seems far removed from our world, almost alien. We are hooked on the Adrenalin of getting ahead and securing our place in this world, so much so that we can’t imagine life without it. We think if we take all of that out of the equation, what else is there left to do in Heaven? Well, taking a genuine interest in other beings (human beings included) would be a good start to wean ourselves off of this mindset.

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. “

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’re “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. Instead of being entirely consumed by self-interest (which ignores the interests of others), we’ll become intrigued by other people’s stories. The minute we begin to feel empathy is the beginning of wisdom.

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. This refreshing approach makes life on Earth much more enjoyable. Living this way, we are simply mirroring the lifestyle of Heaven. It’s beautiful. It’s simple. It’s inspiring.

Notice someone today. Pay attention to the undercurrent of a conversation. Follow one of these rabbit trails and you will end up learning something new. Taking interest in someone else’s story creates a better story. That’s the beauty of wisdom and humility.

Psalm 46:1: [For the director of music. Of the Sons of Korah. According to alamoth. A song.] “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.”

Finding out that we are handcrafted by God is a huge light-bulb moment. One way or another, every person on this planet is on a quest to discover this innate truth. We tend to approach life differently after our light-bulb went off.

We all need God. His absence promotes dysfunction while His presence completes us. God is our refuge and strength. He helps us through life’s darkest hours. Moments like this impact us perhaps more than happy times ever will. As a happy side-effect, our personal trials will eventually yield a precious crop: humility.

Humility is a crown best worn on a mountain top. We shouldn’t forget how we got there. All mountain tops will pass. Around the corner new experiences and unknown challenges are waiting for us; and armed with humility we will do better negotiating the rough territory of life’s crazy surprises.

People weathered by various storms on the road of experience will sense when someone else is down. They are “rainy day people” who can relate because they’ve seen a rain storm or two (I am using Gordon Lightfoot’s endearing terminology here). Personally, I don’t know of anything more gratifying and satisfying than connecting with other people on a deeper level.

God profoundly delights in us when we care, because He cares. That’s who He is – our ever-present help in trouble – and He loves it when we start to resemble Him.

“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 crying a tear or two.” – Gordon Lightfoot

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: “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in 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):

“Be completely humble and gentle;”

This morning as I was browsing the Internet, I listened to Tim McCraw’s rendition of “Humble and Kind”. The song lyrics got my attention, one phrase in particular:

“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 are 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!