Humility is hard. It’s not something that comes naturally but is something we have to work at and daily decide to pursue. If we don’t intentionally choose humility, we will often make life about ourselves. We will focus on number one, before we can even think about you. And we will worry about Me, Myself, and I before we can worry about someone else. Humility is hard.
But according to the apostle Paul, it’s necessary for joy. In Philippians 2, Paul tells us to make his joy complete by being unified (v. 2). Then, he tells us how to be unified. By being humble. By not trying to impress others. By loving others (v. 3-4).
Sometimes I don’t like Scripture. Because it confronts me with areas of personal weakness. And if I’m being honest, I don’t like what Paul is telling me I need to do as a follower Jesus. Because humility is hard.
He surely doesn’t mean that I should hold back on what I share on Facebook? Surely, he doesn’t mean that I should engage in civil conversation rather than attacking and demonizing those I disagree with. Surely, he doesn’t think that I should slow down so that my calendar has pace to love others. Surely, he doesn’t think that I should make other people my priority over my own priorities. Please, Paul, tell me this means something else.
Nope. It’s pretty simple this time.
There’s no getting around this with fancy literary analysis and “this only applies to the first century” rationalization. No…Paul wants us to be humble. And why? Because it’s the way of Jesus (Just read Philippians 2:5-11 and you’ll see). So, how do we do that? How do we fight against our natural disposition to think of ourselves and be humble towards others instead?
Let me suggest a few ideas that you can begin implementing today.
#1 Shut Up
You don’t always have to be the one talking. You don’t always have to make sure your opinion is heard. Next time you want to respond with a zinger and let people know how smart you are, just don’t. Stop typing and close your mouth. When we shut up, it allows us to actually hear and listen to the other points of view and perspectives that are out there. So, try listening… Maybe you’ll learn something.
#2 Reach Out
Have you ever received an encouraging note or compliment that made your day? You know why it made your day? Because someone took the time to notice you. And it feels good. Repay the favor. Reach out to a friend. Compliment a stranger. Let someone know you’re thinking and praying for them. This seems simple, but it helps move your focus from yourself to someone else.
#3 Look In
Sometimes we aren’t aware of how we are feeding our pride. To recognize and understand ourselves, sometimes we have to do some soul-searching. Spend some time with pen and paper and write down the things in life that fuel your pride. These are things that you would feel lost without. Maybe it’s personal or family image (we often put so much pressure on our loved ones to be a certain “type”). Maybe it’s a career, finances, or status that we’ve worked our whole life for. What is it in your life that you prioritize above all else? Awareness of those things can help you control and manage your pride around them.
Basically, just don’t be obsessed with yourself. Listen to what others say. Admit that you might not have all the answers. Take an interest in others. Compliment them, love them, and serve them. Finally, be honest with yourself about what you love and what you prioritize, because that may be the source of your pride.
One final thought that I’m stealing from Michael Todd, Lead Minister of Transformation Church in Tulsa, OK.
1 Peter 5:6 (NLT) says,
So humble yourselves under the mighty power of God, and at the right time he will lift you up in honor.
Notice the action is on us… We are told to humble ourselves. Because when you humble yourself, you never have to be humbled. We can avoid a lot of pain and give others a lot of joy if we just focus on humbling ourselves in same way as Christ Jesus.