I’m a sucker for clickbait. Even when I know it’s clickbait, I still click. Ten tips for this? Click. Life hack for that? Click. The secret to doing this? Click. If there is an easier way of getting things done, I want to know about it. That goes double for things I find it hard to get my head around.
Like humility. We hear about it all the time. We get that it’s the way we are supposed to behave. But can we actually wrap our head around it? The whole concept is like mist: if you try to grab hold of it, it disappears.
Here’s what happens. If I try to be intentionally humble I can go pretty well—to a point. But the second I think “I can feel myself changing, I think I’m getting more humble”, I’ve blown it. Every time we bring the focus back to ourselves, the mist has shifted. But the trouble is we instinctively think of ourselves first. That’s the reality of our post-fall humanity.
That being said, we still need to work on our instinctive lack of humility. Of course we do. Just because it’s impossible for us doesn’t mean we shouldn’t keep trying. But how do we do that? How do we cultivate it? And how do we keep it?
We tell ourselves to read our Bibles and pray—and that is by no means wrong. But if it were that easy, why I am not humble all the time? What’s the trick?
Maybe we’re looking at the wrong thing. I’m not suggesting we take our eye off the ball—I’m saying maybe we should try a different game. Instead of trying to be humble, maybe we should stop being prideful. We are naturally prideful rather than humble, so the former could be far easier to work with on a long term basis than the latter.
Proverbs 21:4 says that haughty eyes and a proud heart are the lamp of the wicked. We can’t ignore this, thinking “that’s about other people”. Sadly, that’s us. That’s us when we refuse to give up being ‘right’. That’s us when we look down on others, even when we don’t mean to.
In 2 Chronicles 26 the Bible tells us about King Uzziah. Uzziah was one of those kings of Judah who “did what was right in the eyes of the Lord”. I think this is how we like to think of ourselves—we try hard to do the right thing and we have good goals and intentions. But then in 2 Chronicles 26:16 it says that after Uzziah became powerful, his pride led to his downfall. He stopped being careful. He thought he could honour God in the way he thought was right. He didn’t listen to others who tried to correct him. He didn’t expand his myopic view. He didn’t self-reflect. He didn’t examine his motivations.
I don’t think Uzziah was an unusually evil man (we tend to view kings in the Old Testament as if they are baddies in some epic film). I think he was a normal human being. He got prideful. And when the priest confronted him, he got angry, because his pride was hurt. He was unaware of where his motivations were taking him. And neither are we.
Dealing with pride needs something the length of an encyclopaedia—or a Bible!—but since you’ve already clicked… “Here are top tips Satan hopes you won’t read!”
So rather than putting all our energy into trying to be humble, let’s start looking at where our pride is taking us. If you are anything like me, it will be pulling you away from humility in Christ.
Being wrong and corrected is hard, but we must continue to test ourselves. As Paul says, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Rom 12:2).