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Humility is an Under-Rated Virtue

Do you consider yourself a humble person?

Some people think that humility is having a low opinion of yourself. Being humble, however, does not mean having a poor opinion of yourself. It does mean accepting yourself and your many good qualities, as well as your limitations, and recognizing that others also have good qualities and limitations.

Humility is understanding that we are not more or less important than others. Humility is not thinking less of ourself, it’s thinking of ourself less. In other words, humility is not being a doormat, and allowing people to walk all over you. It’s understanding that each and every one of us has the same level of importance.

We may look at how other people, dress or act, where they live, what they drive, how their children perform in school, or the amount of money we perceive they have. Based on those materialistic values it’s easy to judge others as less important. We can also look at those same things and judge ourself as less important. Yet every human is equally valuable. You are worth no more or less than anyone else.

Humility is a very Biblical trait, and being Biblical seems to be against our American cultural norm these days. However, just because humility is old-fashioned doesn’t mean that it’s not important.

An important element of humility is accepting yourself with all your faults, rather than judging yourself for your shortcomings. That doesn’t mean you should not strive to improve, but improve in a positive way, rather than berating yourself and focusing on your negative qualities.

For many of us, humility is one of the hardest traits to develop, because it has to start from a recognition that you are not always right, and that you do not have all the answers. It also requires you to accept yourself as you are. Focus on the present, accepting what is, rather than judging yourself or others.

A key quality of humility is to value others. Spending time listening to others, and drawing out their feelings and values is a very powerful way to understand humility. When listening, it’s important to remember that you are not trying to solve their problems or answer all their questions. You are simply listening and responding to them as a friend.

Taking time to stop, and be grateful is a good way to cultivate a more humble, and positive frame of mind. It is easy to get sucked into a negative spiral of wanting more stuff or wanting to change yourself to be what you think others want you to be. In other words, take the time to count your blessings, and be thankful for them.

Humility, is recognizing when we need help, and being able to ask for it appropriately. Pride lies in the thought that we don’t need any help and we can solve our own problems. There are lots of synonyms for pride: conceit, hubris, self-importance, egotism, sense of superiority, pomposity, high-handedness, swagger, boasting, bluster, condescension, disdain, contempt, imperiousness, vanity, immodesty

It is often quite pleasant to feel prideful if we’ve done something good, and everyone is praising us. However, it’s easy for that feel good moment to turn into something negative if we are not humble. To cultivate humility, review your feelings against the above synonyms. Ask yourself “Am I being conceited?” “Am I doing this from a sense of self-importance?” “Do I feel like I am superior?” When you ask yourself these questions, be honest about the answers. Recognizing and naming these feelings for what they are is a good step towards practicing the virtue of humility.

Jesus showed humility by giving credit for his works to his Father and by using his power to serve and assist others rather than to dominate and oppress them. Appreciating others more than yourself is the basic definition of true humility.

“Do nothing out of selfishness; rather, humbly regard others as more important than yourselves…”  Philippians 2:3. In this verse from Philippians, Paul is saying, do not be stubborn and demand your own way. Think of the needs of others first. He is clarifying to the devout Philippians that believers set their priority based on the needs of others, not their own needs.

One of the first words a child learns after “no” is “me.” In our American culture we are trained from childhood that life is all about me. How many times have you seen two toddlers battling it out both of them yelling “mine!” How many adults do you know that exhibit that same toddler mindest?

What if we changed the words me and mine to us and ours? We are the body of Christ and we need each other. None of us is greater or lesser than the others. We are each called to be God’s hands and feet in this world. We can do that by working together, looking out for each other and recognizing that we each have value in the eyes of God. 

That is humility.

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