Understanding Humility

As a person living in recovery and striving to live a truly spiritual life I am faced with moments where I must look inward, at myself. It’s inherently a selfish act. To examine me and my faults. Taking inventory of any wrongs of the day but acknowledging the positives. What I’m grateful for and where am I blessed. When I began to study and understand humility I began thinking I’m spending too much time focused on me. What about me? What happens to me if? Where will I be in? Do I matter? Does this matter? Even, is blogging about my life actually the opposite of humility? #hmmm

Humility is not thinking less of yourself but thinking of yourself less.

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Then I heard the phrase “Humility is not thinking less of yourself but thinking of yourself less” and everything clicked. I began to see I had it all wrong. Trying to prove to others I don’t have all the answers or I haven’t lived a great life. I’ve done bad things or that I don’t deserve blessings. It’s all God. I’m just a human. Oh, those skills? Not my doing. These accomplishments? Nope, just lucky I suppose. My wrongs-doings? I’m just a work in progress. When I compared my self-depreciating language or actions to what I now believe humility is I came to understand 3 important lessons.

#1 If I’m looking outwardly to receive praise or recognition. Commonly referred to as seeking validation. An attempt to feel better about myself through someone else’s eyes. If they’re happy with me, I’m happy with me.

#2 If I’m putting more effort and energy into my own life vs. the lives of those around me. Deceptively disguised as the trending self-love or self-care movement. Me first or I’m no good for others. It’s my turn because (X, Y, or Z)!

#3 If I’m trying to place a value on the things in my life as to gauge their worth. Thereby creating my standard for which I will care or not care. What is he/she doing for me in my life? What is this thing or that thing offering me?

But humility is so much more than thinking of yourself less, it’s truly living for others. An act of kindness. A gesture of peace. A contribution. Respect. Taking a moment of time to lift someone up. Think about healthy relationships with a friend or spouse. It’s about what we can give vs. what we can receive… Then think about the opposite of a healthy relationship. One that may be ending. We can quickly default to thinking more about what I need vs. what the other has. #selfishness


Pride is not the opposite of humility!

In my quest for a deeper understanding of humility I wanted to know what the opposite of humility is. I gave myself time to consider what I believed it may be. I defaulted to pride every time. I think we are all instructed of, at some point or another, this misnomer. So I turned to Google and within a few seconds I found an answer. One that truly resonated with me. It makes the most sense, even from a biblical perspective.

The opposite of humility is selfishness.

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Philippians 2:3-4

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

Even those of you who disregard spirituality or religion can agree with the concept. Philosophically, the mere thought of being humble is inherently not humility. But let’s look at pride a little deeper. As Webster defines it:

#1 a feeling or deep pleasure or satisfaction derived from one’s own achievements, the achievements of those with whom one is closely associated, or from qualities or possessions that are widely admired.

#2 confidence and self-respect as expressed by members of a group, typically one that has been socially marginalized, on the basis of their shared identity, culture, and experience.#2

Biblically speaking pride is most often viewed negatively. We’ve all heard the saying pride comes before the fall. But there’s always context and context always matters. The fall is someone who was once feeling accomplished with high self-regard but has now lost the accolades for their achievements and no longer feels accomplished. Think of the kings and conquerers of our history. None of them lasted. They were all overthrown at some point.

Now let’s examine positive pride. Taking actions of serving others which resulted in positive outcomes for someone or something. It’s perfectly natural to take credit for your contribution, but not the outcome. Biblically speaking the outcome is divinely ordained. But the work, the contribution, the drive to help another is something God says we can take pride in. Provided we’re not looking for outwardly validation and inwardly value.


Humility is the minimization of self

Look at your life. Evaluate each instance where you had the choice to do for another, yet you chose to do for yourself. I see this in my children every night for dinner. As I plate their meals and place on the table. They rush to find which plate has more. Even when they sit in the same chair every time, they’re seeking for themselves first, selfishness. As a parent I remind them it’s more important your neighbor has more. As a child they remind me that’s really none of their concern. #LOL

We do it too. When my wife (separated) was living at home and she was the one who prepared and plated a meal, I would often notice she had more on her plate than mine, almost every time. Was she being selfish? Was I being humble? I never opened my mouth but I noticed. Humility is more than our action, it’s our thoughts as well. A genuine heart that seeks to know and cherish that the others in our lives have more than enough is equally important as actually providing it.

My admission of selfish thinking at dinner time is not humility. That’s purely thinking less of myself. However, a genuine desire to see to it she has more, they have more, and work to provide it without expectation is humility.

I wholeheartedly believe no one on earth is walking around as the humility guru without ever having a selfish thought. Survival is selfish. Sex is selfish. Shelter is selfish. Socialization is selfish. Just because you have a selfish thought does not mean you aren’t or can’t live humbly. Are brains are hardwired to think about self. But consider the action of removing self when regarding another. There we can begin to shift our selfish thinking as well. You may think you deserve the last crumb of bread, but instead give it away, even if that person is holding all the bread. Without any expectation. Unless you need to survive, then take the crumb and ask for more bread. We have to live.

I’m currently faced with a hardship

My heart wants only good for this person. The absolute best of the best in every regard. My heart wants to provide the things they want but I do not have. My heart knows that if I had what they wanted, I would give freely without expectation. My heart pleads with me to do more, give more, be more. To become something greater for the benefit of others, along with myself. To give them a humble being, spiritual fit, mentally awake and morally straight. This is my daily practice.

But my head tells me I must survive. I must self-preserve. I have to regard parts of my life selfishly, like my own recovery. Without first taking care of the basics, no one, including myself, will benefit. I don’t know what the future holds but I know what today holds, my life. I’m alive and breathing, which grants me the opportunity to do for others before myself. To practice humility. And in those moments I think I can’t or I’ll fail, I seek a higher power and let it go. I keep the faith!

To be continued…

Featured Image Credit: The Ascent