How to be Humble
Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name... (Philippians 2:5-9)
I have been learning a great deal about humility over the past couple weeks. No, I am not saying that I have been humiliated greatly, shamed or put down. I believe that humility and humiliation are dramatically different things from my perspective. I am talking about the true kind of humility and the fact that it seems like hardly anyone has a clue as to the real meaning of what that word really involves.
What I have been discovering is that true humility is not the absence of pride but that just the opposite is true. I had always assumed, at least from what I have always been taught, that pride is the substance, the thing that must be displaced and then somehow humility would be the result. But now I am beginning to see that it is pride itself that is an indicator of an intense absence or vacuum in the life, not the other way around. As I have perceived this more clearly it also is becoming apparent that humility by contrast is only possible when the heart of a person is filled enough with the right kind of value and sense of identity and worth that one is completely free to act in genuine humility toward everyone else.
In the context of study that opened so much up to my understanding about the real truth about pride and humility, I began to ponder this morning what the above passage really means. As I learn the true meaning of religious terms and see how radically different they are from what I have always assumed, I find exciting insights and powerful implications when I go back and reread verses that before had little impact on me in the past.
As I apply my new understanding of humility into this passage about Jesus I wonder what I can learn about how to experience this most important attribute in my own life. What really must happen for a person to have true humility? How does one go about having it be a part of their life? What are the real motivations that empower a person to be able to stand up to all sorts of abuse and shame and remain unchanged at the deep levels of the heart like Moses was able to do for so many years?
Moses was one of the clearest examples of humility according to the Bible itself. Now as I think back and reflect on the life of Moses with this new view of the real meaning of humility it makes a great deal more sense. But Moses was not humble because he worked very hard at eliminating pride from his life as I have always thought was necessary to achieve humility. Far from it, Moses grew up as a most privileged boy in a place that thrived on pride and even cultivated it. He was the doted-over son of the princess of Egypt as well as a favorite of most of the Egyptian people and a very popular general of the armed forces. And at that time Egypt was very likely the most powerful nation on earth.
And yet here is what I find in my Bible.
(Now the man Moses was very humble, more than any man who was on the face of the earth.) (Numbers 12:3)
So what moved Moses from living in an environment that encouraged and was rich in pride, arrogance and thirst for power to living out the character of God as the most humble man who ever lived? Was it something that was imposed on him or was it something quite different from that?
As I begin to perceive that pride and humility have in a way become switched in our minds as to which is the vacuum and which has real substance, it begins to also become more clear to me the secret that Moses learned later in his life. The strength and patience and amazing ability to remain humble in the face of overwhelming rebellions, repeated apostasies and rampant, childish selfishness in the lives of nearly everyone he had to deal with came not from some forced removal of his previous attitudes from a life of pride and power nearly so much as his increasing appreciation and awareness of how passionately God loved him personally.
The longer that God worked with Moses and revealed His intimate care and love for him, and even in the ways that God had to discipline Moses at times and rebuke him to guide him in the right direction, Moses began to perceive and appreciate how very valuable he was to God. The result of feeling cherished, loved and cared for at the deepest levels of the heart and soul has the power to make one unafraid of what anyone else can do or say to you. That is the secret power that gave Moses his amazing ability to remain humble year after year in the face of so many situations that would have driven anyone else to immediate despair, anger or even violence.
As I review the whole chapter of Numbers 12 I am amazed that this chapter is one of the best revelations of why a person can live in humility. Moses' own brother and sister challenged his authority and resented the idea that God spoke mainly through Moses and did not treat them the same way He related to Moses. This is the immediate context of the verse just quoted above. In the face of accusations and threats on his position and authority I see Moses still refusing to attempt to defend himself. As a result, that left circumstances open for God to come in and be his defense. This is a very important element of true humility, for a person who feels they have to defend themselves preempts God's desire to be their defense Himself.
But Moses had such a secure attachment with God that he did not have to fear anything, anyone or any threat to his identity and value. As a result God stepped in and dealt with the situation and the rest of the chapter is an amazing revelation of how God felt about Moses. I can hardly imagine how thrilled Moses must have felt as God emphatically spoke words of fierce loyalty and revealed such intimacy about His relationship and feelings toward Moses. If I ever heard God speak these kind of words about me to someone who was questioning my relationship with God, it seems that it would never matter again what anyone else ever thought about me. If the greatest, most powerful Being of the whole universe publicly said that I was His most trusted and intimate friend on earth I can hardly imagine what effect that could have on my own sense of self-worth.
Given that way of seeing things it is not nearly so hard to see why Moses had such enormous capability to be humble in the face of so much opposition to himself. Likewise, Jesus was in reality the most humble human being to ever live and He too lived in very tight connection with His Father so that He would never lose sight of His true identity and value. As a result He became the greatest example of the real way a person can find the authentic and effective motivations for living in secure humility.
So when I find myself acting out in ways of pride now, I begin to be aware that my real problem is not that some new infection is taking over my life that I must eliminate somehow from my heart but that I am experiencing symptoms of a serious lack of feeling loved and cherished by the only One who can truly impart to me any real sense of worth. I then realize that I need to take more time to listen to what my Father in heaven has to say to my heart so that what others think about me will have less and less threat on my sense of worth and identity. The most effective way to eliminate pride in my heart is not by trying to eliminate it. (You cannot get rid of a state of vacuum by removing it.) The only effective way to find real humility is by going to the only viable source of real worth and tanking up on the real thing, by marinating in the presence of the One who was willing to give His life for me to demonstrate how passionately He really does care about me no matter what anyone else thinks about me.
Father, help me to spend more time basking in Your love, simmering in Your presence, absorbing into my deepest being how You really feel about me. Remind me again and again of who I really am from Your perspective and how important I am to You no matter what anyone else tries to say or imply about me. Show me Your face today and let me feel Your passionate love for me in very real ways that I can never forget. Bless me with a fuller revelation of Your heart so that I can remain unthreatened by what anyone else may say or do to me. Thank-you for doing this because it really is all about Your reputation and about revealing Yourself more fully to the world.