How to Walk in Biblical Humility Today
Have you ever met someone new and immediately gotten an impression of how they view themselves? I've had this experience in both a positive and negative way.
On the negative side, I remember meeting someone who only talked about herself. She was quick to use labels, accolades, and status symbols. I felt like I was talking to a resume instead of a person, and I remember leaving the conversation thinking about how she didn't even ask what my name was.
On the other hand, I met someone who I later found out was kind of a "big deal" by the world's standards. Even the way this person dressed was unassuming. They acted like we were best friends even though we'd never met before, and intentionally focused the conversation on what I liked and what I was comfortable talking about.
The difference between these two experiences is humility.
We read the "God opposes the proud but gives favor the humble," (James 4:6) and we know it's important. But how do we actually become humble when it's so counter culture?
How do we walk in biblical humility today?
Submit our thoughts and opinions to God
A proud person believes their opinion is the most important opinion in the world. A humble person listens first. I've often felt like I've been talked down to because of my age. One funny instance of this happens in the realm of social media. Some random older person will come to "correct" my theology. Then, I'll kindly reply with a little bit if church history and share that these differing views are widely accepted and neither is heretical.
The follow up question is usually, what qualifies you?
My temptation is to share my qualifications; the classes I've taken, the books I've contributed to, the mentors I've had.
But the only qualification that matters is that I'm a child of God. The only qualification I need, is that I have gone before the Lord and submitted my thoughts, opinions, and questions to Him.
Humility is eager to listen (James 1:19) with an open mind. Humility doesn't believe everything, but it goes before God and tests everything and holds on to what is good (1 Thessalonians 5:21).
Give honor to others
In my industry, there is a term often used called "platform building." In the publishing world, they want you to prove that you have an established readership, people who would listen to you and want you on a platform.
My response to this has always been a sigh and saying an internal, "ick."
Many believers in my industry try to reframe it. They talk about purposeful platforms or creating space for conversation. There's nothing wrong with having a platform, but the platform can't be about you.
Maybe you aren't pursuing a publishing deal, but as a stay at home mom or a friend, humility desires to take the position of the last and lowest. Humility creates a culture of honor and seeks to honor others.
When Jesus' disciples started this conversation about who among them was the greatest, He got down and washed their feet. This is a beautiful picture of humility that demonstrates how the humble don't partake in rankings or declaring roles. They lower themselves and do the work that no one else wants to do (John 13).
Be Willing to be wrong
If you're already submitting your thoughts and opinions to God, then you also have to be willing to be wrong. The first step is listening to others. The next step is being willing to change your mind or renew your mind (Romans 12:2).
When I think of someone who isn't willing to be wrong, I think of the pharisees.
They were so certain and so committed to their beliefs and their ways, they missed out on the way even when He was right in front of them.
Instead of experiencing healing and celebration on the Sabbath, they pointed out that Jesus couldn't break their rules even though He was the rule. Their unwillingness to be wrong went down in history.
There's a difference between being overly religious and acting with wisdom. You can be wise and humble when you're willing to hear from God (and others who He might be speaking through) even when their thoughts and opinions differ from your own.
Eager to listen
Are you noticing a theme yet? Humility is deeply rooted in listening.
When I picture humility, I picture it with open ears. In coaching, we talk about different levels of listening. The highest level of listening is empathic listening. This goes beyond active listening, because when you're using empathic listening you aren't listening to respond.
Active listening is listening with an intent to respond. Empathic listening is listening with an intent to understand.
Coaching has changed my personal communication as I've learned to listen empathically. I have realized this is always how God listens to us (1 John 5:14). I think humility listens not to respond, but to understand. Humility allows others to be heard and to be the one who listens the most.
Allow God to position others above us
Humility allows us to be positioned under other people. We are already submitted to God and have to accept His authority in our lives as believers. This should help us to see that He can position other people above us and we can trust Him.
Paul talks about this in Romans 13, "Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established.The authorities that exist have been established by God."
God promotes and positions people.
Celebrating others being promoted and positioned above us is a true act of humility and submission. In our culture, there is so much focus on climbing the ladder and moving "up" in the world.
God's focus has never been having us move up, but equipping us to build relationships that turn around and lift up others.
When we reject pride and embrace humility, we don't think about who deserves what or who earned what. We see everything as a gift from God (James 1:17) and we are eager to let someone else move ahead of us to see greater Kingdom impact.