Pride. Humbleness. I believe that these two trigger words make us uneasy and I believe that they share the same cancerous root in context.
Recently I’ve seen and heard quite a few people boasting in their humility, and it always seems to leave me scratching my head. I see Instagram posts and captions saying things to the tune of “Work hard, stay humble.” A quick Google search on the word “humble” yields me this:
Full disclosure: I espoused all of these quotes up until maybe just a few weeks ago, while going through my favorite book for the 3rd time. I used to have this idea that if I keep my head down and grind, then my work would speak for itself and God will bless me with success. The epiphany drawn is pretty contradictory to what we’re taught about humility.
I contend that people that feel the need need to call themselves humble inherently have a pride problem. Myself included.
It wasn’t easy to arrive at this conclusion. It took quite a bit of soul searching in all facets of life; work, marriage (you never know how selfish you are until you get married), and my interactions with others all came under heavy scrutiny. I’m sure everyone reading this will agree that looking at other people’s flaws is a relatively easy task. We’re all judgmental by default. But to find something as insidious and easily camouflaged as pride within yourself? Man, is that challenging! And for the record, this is nothing that I’ve discovered in my own right. This came along with prayer for open eyes and a listening spirit.
In order to truly understand what it means to be humble, we should first understand pride, right? After all, they’re generally seen as direct opposites. Here’s Webster’s basic definition of “pride:”
Simple Definition of pride
: a feeling that you respect yourself and deserve to be respected by other people
: a feeling that you are more important or better than other people
: a feeling of happiness that you get when you or someone you know does something good, difficult, etc.
Pretty self-explanatory. Okay, so we know what pride is, but what is “humble?”
adjective hum·ble \ˈhəm-bəl also chiefly Southern ˈəm-\
Simple Definition of humble
: not proud : not thinking of yourself as better than other people
: given or said in a way that shows you do not think you are better than other people
: showing that you do not think of yourself as better than other people
Sounds nice, huh? Well I both agree and disagree with that definition. I think being humble does involve all of those, but anyone can fake the last two. Furthermore, I found a similarity between the definitions of “pride” and “humble.”
I’m still the center of the definition. The importance (or lack therof) of me. The culture of me. And ultimately, the deity of me. When I announce my own humility, I am subconsciously announcing that I have a reason to be proud, but am choosing not to. I deserve the accolades and praise, but I’m above such behavior (and ironically enough, I’m doing exactly that).
True humility is understanding and operating your life under the notion that it’s not about you.
It never was. Every single one of us, no matter how important or successful or notorious by our pitifully shallow societal standards, were created for something much greater than ourselves. We are all part of an indescribably beautiful cosmic rhythm, a story filled with tragedy and love and redemption where all of our lives intertwine over the course of millennia.
And you believe for even a subconscious split second that the world revolves around you? Pfft.
Just to clarify, the opposite of pride is not low self-seteem. Thinking of yourself as lower than dirt is called depression, not humility. In fact, depression can often be closer to pride simply because you’re the center of your own attention.
This may sound like depressing information to some, but our reaction and response should really be freedom. The pressure’s off! I no longer need to feel burdened by the yoke of performance. I don’t have to take stock in people’s perceptions of me. It’s pointless to act as if I’m a lesser or greater person because it’s not about me. Notice that all definitions of “humble” are satisfied once you take yourself out of the epicenter of the universe. You don’t try to bring yourself down to earth, you’re already there.
And that’s my prayer for myself and you. May we go through our lives unconcerned with our status with anyone but God. May we serve each other selflessly and faithfully, not to be rewarded, but because we recognize ourselves as part of an eternal rhythm. I invite you all to dance with me.