What is humility?
It comes from the word – humble. In any dictionary, it means, “unpretentious” or “lowly”. Lowly? Surely, it is a word that is loathsome, at least to a lot of people if not some. It is not surprising because no one likes the idea of seeing oneself as being “lowly”. Do you? Many would even dread of being seen as humble especially those who see and think highly of themselves as being superior than others. Because to them, being humble is a sign of weakness and insecurity. This is, without doubt, the most common earthly perception we know of that is what usually making these people unwilling to eat the humble pie. Unless, of course, it’s when they’re “caught with their pants down” for what they said or did, that will obviously leave them with no other choice but to eat the humble pie. Isn’t it? So, is it therefore, safe to assume that ‘humility’ can come in more than one facet which can also be opened to abuse depending on the situation? Whether there’s such chance or possibility, it naturally suggests the explanation about why there are 2 sides of the coin. And, if one wants to explore further to see what’s in store about the real meaning of humility, then one should look at both sides of the coin with unbiased minds. In order to get it right and fairly, let’s name one side of the coin as “false humility” and the other side as “true humility” so that one would even know which side of the coin, when tossed up in the air and come back down on the palm of one’s hands is true or false. That’s because it seemed people today are so confused, they don’t know what is true and what is not, anymore.
So, to understand better the true meaning of the word, perhaps the best way to get round it would be to explore, what is ‘not’ humility! How about that? Probably, this way it would be easier for anyone to differentiate it correctly when one can see all the rhetorics of how people are misusing the power of humility for their own self-aggrandisement and not for the good of humanity. You see, the most common tendency for a person to get people’s attention is always by saying the right word and at the right time. Simply because, it’s always the human nature of everyone to become convinced and to accept something that sounds like music to the ears. Amazingly, it has been proven to work, especially for people who are looking to garner for support of some kind. Perhaps, like politics? That is most interesting. When it comes to politics, nothing would be spared. Not even the word, ‘humble’. No wonder the word seemed like it’s getting pretty popular all of a sudden. Even people who were once seen as very arrogant are beginning to change the course of direction after realising how the word, ‘humble’ can have such a distinct effect on the right-minded thinking people. It is so incredible that people suddenly like the idea of saying the word in the public now. The word has hardly been given any pre-eminence all these years. Is it because it is becoming a new trend now, and makes a person looks “cool” if seen as humble? If it is, does it not makes anyone wonders what will happen to other people who are still so proud of themselves, but now suddenly have to switch gear, and follow suit because it’s trendy and “cool” to eat humble pie just to keep up with times, or to win the hearts of people for something else? It’s so marvelous. Now, suddenly everyone can become “humble!” Just say the word only. Or maybe wear a t-shirt with the words, “I’m as humble as humble pie” and one’s popularity will shoot up instantly…. or so, one thought!
When people make statements in the public using the word ‘humble’ to make themselves looked “humbled” in the eyes of the public, it would seem as the quickest and most effective way to get a favorable attention from the audience. However, if there’s anyone present who knows what true humility is and about, will have no problem at all detecting it at the snap of the fingers that such show of adulation is not real. It is only making a mockery of the word. It is just false humility at work. In fact, it’s much the same as boasting. It is just another way of exalting oneself. When one is truly humbled, people can even smell it from a distance or would be revered in the hearts and minds of rational people even if the person is dead. There’s no need to announce it by telling the world. That is pride. And false humility! The Bible has spoken of such tragic human hypocrisy saying that even having pride is a sin. In Proverbs 21:4, “An high look, and a proud heart, and the plowing of the wicked, is sin.
Not surprisingly, the meaning of true humility is “awfully misunderstood” and is easily abused, indeed. When it comes to touch on the subject of humility, the most common mentality detected from a lot of people is this. Humility is often regarded by many as something to do with the “losers” only. At least, that’s what I learned and experimented and experienced. Here’s an easy example to prove such claim could be substantiated. I was walking out of a convenience store and I held the door open for someone to walk in. There was not a word of “thank you” heard. It’s not surprising, anyway. Why? Because that person could be thinking I’m just a loser because only losers do that! Only losers stoop so low as to even become a “doorman”. Try putting it to the test, and you’ll be made to feel the same too. That’s why these days, people no longer do that because they simply just don’t want to get “mistaken” as losers. That sure is swell, isn’t it? So, the next time if one walks in or out of a door, be careful not to get slammed on the face by the door, because there are not many “losers” around to hold the door open.
You see, that’s exactly what happened to Jesus. He was a “loser” in the eyes of his people, especially those self-righteous high priests who didn’t believe he could be their Messiah even though there were many signs indicating that he’s the ONE. Jesus, even though is the Son of God, was rashly and irrationally rejected because he was “awfully misunderstood” just because he had the power from God to do miracles. He was never once let off the hook for being accused of committing “blasphemy” every time for rebuking those self-righteous priests of hypocrisy. Many people today still feel ashamed in associating with Jesus. Why? Is it because Jesus stooped so low as to wash the feet of his disciples? Is it because he tried to save a woman who committed adultery from being stoned by those self-righteous priests? And, because of that, he offended them by telling them off in John 8:7, saying, “He that is without sin among you cast a stone at her.” Is it because Jesus was so full of human touch that he touched the “untouchables” and let them touch him as recorded in Luke 7:37-50? So, was doing all these made him a loser? Because to many people then and even now, only a loser would do all these lowly things. Right? So, how can one believe in him? How could he be the Messiah that Isaiah prophesied to come?
Don’t make sense? Know why? Perhaps, by sharing what other people say about what they thought true humility is, then there could be a chance that everyone will see the real picture better. And most importantly, the picture of who the real loser is here, after all.
Someone by the name, Paderewski who became well-known as a great pianist had this to say about what it takes to learn the lesson of what humility is. He said, “Before I was a master, I was a slave.” Isn’t it powerful enough to get a person to put on the thinking cap? What he meant was, to become a ‘somebody’ and be respected by people, it takes a lifetime of unremitting effort in achieving it. And it begins by stooping very, very low. Does that means he is a loser?
There’s an Asian proverb that says, “The taller the bamboo grows, the lower it bends.” It simply means, the higher a person is in grace, the lower the person will be willing to stoop, to serve others. Does it makes one, even a manager, a loser to serve others? If it does, then the world is full of losers, isn’t it?
There are a number of contemporary “saints” who can show the power of “doing humility” better than any others who are only talking humility or boasting of humility. One such character that deserved hailing as the most beloved “saints” of the century is no other than Mother Teresa. Even though she was a humble person, yet she was not spared the criticism at some point in her missionary work in fighting poverty, sickness, and diseases all because of the lack of medical facilities in the hospitals that she established through her hard work and FAITH in Jesus. She was nevertheless, awarded the Noble Peace Prize in 1979. It was when she started to show the power of “doing humility” which comes with the inevitable process of paying the price of suffering as Jesus did, that she got criticized for having a bizarre philosophy for quoting, “It is the most beautiful gift for a person that he can participate in the sufferings of Christ.” Is someone being criticized for exemplifying the “doing humility” of Christ, a loser?
Another person that should be given the same standing ovation is, Helder Camara. Camara says in one of his books, “When I am about to go out and face a huge audience which is applauding me and cheering me, I turn to Christ and say to him simply, “Lord, this is your triumphal entry into Jerusalem! I am just the little donkey you’re riding on.” Is someone being applauded and cheered for giving credit to Christ, a loser?
Now, what are all these telling a person to learn here about humility? To be a loser? Maybe yes, maybe no. I’d like to take it as Yes. It is so crucial that one really needs to stoop so low as a “loser” to learn the lesson of humility. The best example is what one can learn from Jesus when he made his triumphal entry into Jerusalem. He was only riding on a donkey and not on some grand chariot or something. Did it make him a loser? When he was suffering immeasurable pain on the cross, and before he gave up the ghost, yet he said in Luke 23:34, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do!”
If he was a loser, then why are there still people believing in him? And even willing to become ‘crucified’ or ‘criticized’ for having FAITH in him? Jesus has demonstrated here that for anyone who is genuinely and sincerely seeking God and his kingdom, one must first fully give oneself to God by being humble in the sight of God. That’s because it said in 1 Peter 5:5&6, “God always resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble. Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time.”
God always abhorred arrogance. As a matter of fact, it was arrogance that caused the angel, Lucifer, to fall from the grace of God and became what he is now known as the Prince of Darkness. So, who is the real loser here? Jesus who stooped very, very low or Lucifer who was so full of pride and arrogance? Of course, those who don’t believe in Jesus will surely say Jesus is a loser just because he got crucified. Only the downtrodden and criminals would be executed by crucifixion those days. What people failed to ‘see’ is this. It was a ploy. It was exactly what the Satan had plotted, and that is to have Jesus killed in such a way. So much so, as to make it unbelievable for people to believe that Jesus can save people from the evil clutches of the Devil and Sin. How can a “loser” who has died the death of a “downtrodden” and a “criminal” be a Saviour? You can say the Satan has succeeded in a way, because up until now, a lot of Christians who took up the cross and followed Jesus are taken as “infidels” and would be persecuted and killed indiscriminately like Jesus. Jesus has said in John 15:18-21, “If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you. Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also. But all these things will they do unto you for my name’s sake, because they know not him that sent me.”
But, the good news is, Jesus, a “loser”, “downtrodden”, and “criminal” was raised from the dead on the third day. This was what crushed the Satan’s hope of claiming the souls of Man in the ‘Holy War’ that he is waging with God.
The Bible says, the kingdom is at hand and advised people to repent. However, it takes having to swallow a lot of pride for a person to repent. The question is, how many people are willing to become a loser and stoop so very, very lowly to do that? Yes, how low can you go? But, if there is anyone of those who don’t believe in Jesus and despised him and his followers, ever think of wanting to reconcile with God and to have a relationship with Him to enter his kingdom in heaven. Well, here is bad news for them! This is because they will have to go through Jesus, the “loser”, the “downtrodden”, and the “criminal” first. Apparently, the Bible does not give any hints that there are millions of ways to get to God and especially bypassing Jesus, because in John 14:6, “Jesus has saith, I am the way, the truth, and the life: No man cometh unto the Father, but by me.”
Price Of Humility
If, for any reason anyone had a change of heart and is sincerely looking to seek God and his kingdom. That’s good. It has been emphatically pointed out right from the beginning that anyone regardless of who, has no other choice, but must first get the true humility of Jesus by stooping very, very low to humble oneself in the sight of God.
Will the person be willing to become a loser to hold the door for others? Will the person be willing to swallow the pride and accept Jesus as the one and only one who can save the person from the Devil, Sin and Death? Will the person be willing to show the beauty of humility by offering the right cheek if slapped on the left or vice-versa?
If the person is not yet ready or willing to do all these to become HUMBLE in the sight of God, then the person must never ever think of uttering the word with impunity. And using it at one’s whims and fancies. Which, as a result, it would be destroying the beauty and true meaning of the word, HUMBLE which is the trademark of God.