Defining Pride and Humility
While I haven’t heard it since I was a kid, the words came immediately to mind when I decided to study pride and humility.
Oh Lord it’s hard to be humble, when you’re perfect in every way. I can’t wait to look in the mirror ’cause I get better looking each day. To know me is to love me. I must be a hell of a man. O Lord it’s hard to be humble, but I’m doing the best that I can. (Mac Davis)
The NASB Life Application Study Bible defines humility as:
“Usually, an honest self-appraisal, characterized by the knowledge that one is merely human and by the absence of pride.”
The NASB Life Application Study Bible defines pride simply as “exaggerated self-esteem.”
Both pride and humility begin in a person’s mind and eventually become visible in their conduct. Where humility shows through in an absence of pride and arrogance and instead involves being unpretentious and unassuming, pride shows through in a lofty and often arrogant assumption of superiority.
Moving from Pride to Humility
Scripture provides many examples of God both causing and expecting humility.
- God humbles to reveal the condition of our hearts and to test our obedience. (Deuteronomy 8:2-3)
- God promises forgiveness and healing to the humble even after grave sin. (2 Chronicles 7:14)
- God leads toward and teaches humbleness. (Psalm 25:9)
- God humbles those who don’t fear Him. (Psalm 55:19)
- God opposes the proud. (1 Peter 5:5)
Resistance is futile. Resistance to humility, that is. Either we choose to let go of pride and humble ourselves before a Holy God, or we choose to suffer the consequences of opposing God. Willingly choosing humbleness is a much better option that being humbled by God. Just read the Old Testament for proof of that fact.
Choosing humility involves taking the road to the cross. It requires following Jesus in attitude, action, and word. It requires dying to self. While we may all truly believe that Christ died on the cross for our sins and then rose from the dead in defeat of sin, death and the devil, do we actually live that belief in the same spirit in which Christ made His way to the cross, the spirit of humility?
“Humility is not denying the power or gifting you have, but admitting that the gifting is from God and the power comes through you and not from you.” (Unknown)
Choosing humility involves realizing your value as a redeemed child of God, value from Him and not in any way earned or created by you. It means focusing on what God did for your redemption and then choosing to live that out in obedience by serving him in whatever way he asks using the abilities, talents and gifts he gives.
True humility comes to us exemplified perfectly in the life of Christ. Applied to Jesus, the NASB Life Application Study Bible defines humility as:
“[Jesus’s] attitude of service to others and His willingness to forego the rights and exaltation that are properly His as the Son of God.”
Jesus’s one focus – to seek and to save the lost – led Him down a path of obedience to the Father all the way to the cross. This involved serving others, being criticized for associating with “lesser” sorts, and submitting to God’s will over his own. With every right for exaltation, Christ chose humbleness. At the very least, with no right at all for exaltation, we can choose to live lives of practical humility as we follow His example by:
- Humbling ourselves regularly before God. (James 4:10; Luke 18:9-14)
- Being humble in our dealings with others. (Philippians 2:1-11; James 3:2; James 5:16)
- Bearing affliction and wrong with patience. (1 Peter 3:8-17)
- Submitting to authority. (1 Peter 2:18)
- Staying teachable. (Proverbs 10:17, 12:1)
- Forgiving endlessly. (Philippians 1:1; 2 Corinthians 4:5; Matthew 23:11)
- Staying grateful. (1 Thessalonians 5:18)
- Always being willing to work toward trust.
We must, like Christ, be willing to serve others with no thought for what we’ll get in return, never considering ourselves too good for association with anyone as we realize Jesus came to save everyone, not just the socially acceptable.
We must also be willing to give up our own wants and desires to pursue God’s will. Choosing humility does not, unfortunately, mean pride remains forever absent from our lives. We will still continue Struggling with Pride. We will still have moments where pride rears its ugly head, but those are the moments where we can once again choose humility.