Saturday 17 January 2009

O Lord, it’s hard to be humble

Oh Lord it's hard to be humble

When you're perfect in every way

I can't wait to look in the mirror

’Cos I get better lookin’ each day

To know me is to love me

I must be a hell of a man

Oh Lord it's hard to be humble

But I'm doin' the best that I can

(Mac Davies)

Screwtape to Wormwood:

Your patient has become humble; have you drawn his attention to the fact? All virtues are less formidable to us once the man is aware that he has them, but this is specially true of humility. Catch him at the moment when he is really poor in spirit and smuggle into his mind the gratifying reflection, “By jove! I’m being humble”, and almost immediately pride—pride at his own humility—will appear. If he awakes to the danger and tries to smother this new form of pride, make him proud of his attempt—and so on, through as many stages as you please. But don’t try this too long, for fear you awake his sense of humor and proportion, in which case he will merely laugh at you and go to bed.

C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters, Ch VI.

Philippians 2:1-8

If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death-- even death on a cross.

At last night’s Bristol Anabaptist Network meeting, we were talking about the subject of ‘humility’, arising out of our reading David Augsburger’s chapter on ‘Habitual Humility’ from his book ‘Dissident Discipleship.

We found ourselves laughing about the old problem of how to ‘aim’ for humility, without then feeling pride at having achieved it! We also spoke about the problem of ‘false humility’, which when it comes down to it is really just another form of pride.

It occurs to me that maybe there’s another way of looking at this.

If trying not to be proud, or trying to be humble, is actually making ‘humility’ a goal to be worked towards, maybe we need to try something else instead; and I wonder if the issue here is one of self-worth.

Maybe humility should not be thought of as a goal at all, but rather a result of how we perceive ourselves. Maybe pride and false humility are also results: the results of our constant desire to measure or prove our worth against other people. Either we’re proud of our perceived superiority, or we over-state our perceived inferiority, both in an attempt to give ourselves a sense of worth and value when measured against other people.

Perhaps the trick here is to seek our sense of self esteem not from measurement against others, but from a sense of security in who we are before God, with our giftings and shortcomings recognised as just being a part of who we are; with ‘who we are’ being loved totally by God. As Philip Yancey says in ‘What’s So Amazing About Grace’, ‘Grace means there is nothing we can do to make God love us any more and grace means there is nothing we can do to make God love us any less.’

So, the first step towards humility is learning to take our self-worth from God, not from others. But I think there’s more to it than this. It’s not just about me and God – other people still have to come into the equation!

I think the thing to focus on here is love. Do we genuinely love the other? When someone else excels at something we would like to be good at, are we envious or pleased? Jealous or delighted?

If we can learn to love the other, maybe we can then be thrilled at their achievements, and not covetous of their accomplishments.

So here we have it – love of the other, and a greater appreciation of God’s love for us. Result: humility…