Seeking humility is a funny endeavor. The minute we think we’re gaining humility, we need to start the process again. It can be tempting to brag about acts of humility. It can also be tempting to step aside and help someone else forward just because we’re being noticed as we help. Humility isn’t pure unless our motivation is correct and that motive should be seeking to help others for no other reason except to help.
As C.S. Lewis put it, “Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it is thinking of yourself less.” Any time that we put “ourselves” and “our thoughts” in between us and any situation, we’re not portraying true humility. By outer appearances, we are helping. So, it’s not all bad. After all, it’s very difficult to get everything right at once. We are all flawed human beings. On the inside, we may be thinking what else is good about this task besides just helping. Possibly, we want someone to take notice of our “selfless” deed. However, we are much more at peace when we just help and forget about how it affects us.
Since God opposes the proud and gives grace to the humble (James 4:6), we should want to seek to be as truly humble as we can because we need all of the grace that we can get. I know I do. In addition, it’s very tiring to always seek what we want. Therefore, the goal becomes to seek to help other people and forget about us, at least for a little while. When we do that, we find that God takes care of our needs and worries or at least makes them seem pale in comparison. Worrying over our own problems does nothing to really help anyway. Placing ourselves in God’s capable hands and trusting that He won’t let go no matter what is happening is much more restful and freeing.
When we are living with a humble attitude we’re usually living with more of the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) showing in our lives—love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. When we find ourselves thinking the opposite of these traits, we are living selfish and self-centered. Denying ourselves and our own desires and letting one or more of the fruit of the Spirit traits come forth really is the way to live peacefully. I don’t think that God minds if we voice our opinions but if we stubbornly stick to those opinions, we’re like a little kid that places his hands over his ears when he doesn’t want to hear what a parent is saying.
Jesus said to deny ourselves and follow Him but sometimes we can deny ourselves for the wrong reasons. Three ways that we might have a tendency to do that are:
1. Denying ourselves in order to make a point.
If we find ourselves saying something like, “Whatever. We’ll do it your way,” we’re not denying ourselves at all. In fact, we’re strongly reiterating that our way is probably better. We are denying ourselves to make a final effort of making our point.
2. Denying ourselves to feel better about ourselves.
If we find ourselves saying something like, “I’ll do this because you want to do it,” and we’re sincere so there’s no problem. But if we really were sincere, we probably wouldn’t phrase it like that. We would simply say, “Okay, let’s do it.” The previous way is more of a grumble and complain. We probably said it just to feel like the better person. We are denying ourselves to feel like we are a nice person. This is people-pleasing, it’s not humility.
3. Denying ourselves to have an excuse to be lazy.
And, if we find ourselves agreeing with an opinion that we don’t share or not voicing our own opinion at all, we’re using a keeping-the-peace mentality as an excuse to be lazy. We’re denying ourselves because we are afraid. Again, we are in a people-pleasing mindset.
The above examples are nothing more than false humility or letting someone else have their way so that we look or feel better. We’re putting on a mask and when we are wearing any kind of mask, we’re not being humble. We are hiding.
Denying ourselves should never mean hiding ourselves or making it easier on ourselves. Our opinions should be shared honestly and fully. We can speak up for God and His principles. However, we should never do those things in a brash or angry way. God’s way is usually to speak the truth clearly but softly so that people will have a chance to hear what we’re saying. Anger will turn people off before we have a chance to say two words.
True humility is being who God created us to be and not hiding our opinions. It’s not cramming our opinions down someone’s throat. We always have to remember that although we can gain wisdom from reading the bible and praying, we will never have all of the answers or know everything. That is God’s job description and his thoughts are much higher than our thoughts.