All of you, clothe yourself with humility toward one another, because, “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.” – 1 Peter 5:5
When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom. – Proverbs 11:2
“It is almost impossible to overestimate the value of true humility and its power in the spiritual life. For the beginning of humility is the beginning of blessedness and the consummation of humility is the perfection of all joy. Humility contains in itself the answer to all the great problems of the life of the soul. It is the only key to faith, with which the spiritual life begins: for faith and humility are inseparable. In perfect humility all selfishness disappears and your soul no longer lives for itself or in itself for God: and it is lost and submerged in Him and transformed into Him.” – Thomas Merton
“True humility is not an abject, groveling, self-despising spirit; it is but a right estimate of ourselves as God sees us.” – Tryon Edwards
I once heard someone say that life has a way of taking your trophies from you. What I think they meant by that is things come our way that show us to be noticeably imperfect and flawed human beings who aren’t as awesome as we, or others, might think we are. Some people allow this trophy-taking process to humble them, while others double down and become more arrogant and self-glorifying.
Munchkins, I want you to be prepared for the inevitable humbling that’s coming your way. It’s going to happen across seven very important areas of life.
- First: I want you to know that life will humble you relationally. We’re all left-footed when it comes to developing a healthy bond with other human beings. Every relationship we’re in reveals just how flawed we are when it comes to our efforts to attach with others, and this undeniable fact is supposed to keep us humble.
- Second: I want you to know that life will humble you intellectually. During our brief stay on this planet, we constantly run into the fact that we don’t know very much and often can’t rub two neurons together when it comes to understanding what we know. Every time we attempt to learn something new or try to more deeply understand what we already know, we’re going to run into the fact that we only know about .00001% of all that can be known and only understand .00001% of what we know. That’s supposed to keep us humble about how intelligent we aren’t.
- Third: I want you to know that life will humble you psychologically. We come into the world with a broken psyche (pronounced “sigh-key”), and we prove that all the time by not coping in an emotionally healthy manner with the slings and arrows that come our way. Each day is a test of our ability to cope emotionally with life, and we often come up way far short. That’s supposed to keep us humble about our psychological maturity as we go through life.
- Fourth: I want you to know that life will humble you when it comes to how talented and gifted you are. Every day is another beatdown about the fact that there are literally millions of people out there who are significantly more talented and gifted at things than you are, and millions of people who are more talented than them. That’s supposed to keep you humble about the fact that you’re not God’s gift to the planet at a talent and ability level.
- Fifth: I want you to know that life will humble you in terms of how competent you are at the tasks of life. We’re all incompetent to some degree at everything we do. Like it or not, there are a lot of people out there who are noticeably more competent than we are—more competent worker bees, spouses, parents, friends, etc. That’s supposed to keep us humble.
- Sixth: I want you to know that life will humble you when it comes to how moral of a person you are. No one comes close to the moral perfection of Jesus Christ, not by a long shot. Your most righteous acts are like filthy rags in God’s eyes given that they are stained by your sinful moral bent. That’s supposed to keep us humble.
- Finally: I want you to know that life will humble you related to getting older. Everybody ages, but not everybody ages gracefully.
Pop, for example, has not aged gracefully because it really bugs the starch out of his shirts that he can’t see as well, remember people’s names (including his own), hear as well, or find the energy he once had (my get up and go got up and went!). Our bodies fall apart as we get older, something that is meant to keep us humble.
James Barrie, the novelist who created Peter Pan, said, “Life is a long lesson in humility.”
So true. We can rail against that fact, or we can eat humble pie and try to be at peace with it. The choice is ours, but I would strongly encourage you to go the humble pie route so you experience greater emotional health and be good role model for others.
Munchkins, I want you to eat a big slice of humble pie every day when it comes your interpersonal skills, intelligence, psychological health, talents and abilities, competence, moral health, and physical acumen.
Don’t think too highly of yourself, but don’t think too poorly of yourself either.
As English cleric Charles Caleb Colton put it, “He that places himself neither higher nor lower than he ought to do exercises the truest humility.”
Humbly accept everything about who you are – the good, the bad, and the ugly – and keep working to improve on all of it before God takes you home.