Words rarely heard these days:
“I’m sorry . . . I was wrong . . . will you please forgive me?”
It’s called an apology–
an admission of error or discourtesy
accompanied by an expression of regret.*
We practiced this when our children were small, often finding it most helpful to lead by example. To apologize is an outward demonstration of humility, but it does not necessarily reflect what is in the heart.
In the Counseling Room we talk a lot about the importance of humility before God. First Session we almost always turn to Jeremiah 17:5-10 to establish the importance of sorting out who (or what) needs to be the primary motivation behind resolving problems. The passage warns against relying on other people who will ultimately lead us“to a salt land where no one lives,” (verse 6). It then encourages us to trust only in God’s faithfulness. When we get to verses 9-10 the passage warns:
“The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure.
Who can understand it?’
I the Lord search the heart and examine the mind,
to reward each person according to their conduct,
according to what their deeds deserve.’”
Not every Client sees it right away, but we talk about the danger of relying on our feelings rather than on God in problem solving. All too often it is as we “follow our hearts” (the counsel of the world) that lead us down destructive paths.
Humility defined: “Freedom from pride or arrogance : the quality or state of being humble–not haughty or assertive.”*
We live in difficult times. With each passing day hatred has become increasingly easy and humility is perceived as weakness. It is our natural bent to want to respond “in kind” to those who offend or hurt us. But Jesus taught His followers to do the opposite:
“You have heard that it was said,
‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’
But I tell you, love your enemies
and pray for those who persecute you . . . .”
Matthew 5:43, 44
For Christians, humility has less to do with who is right or wrong but what is right before God:
To love Him first and foremost and to love our neighbors as we love ourselves (Luke 10:27) are what should be our primary motivation in how we live out our lives.
Humility is about choosing to trust God as Sovereign, Good and Just. I love the way Romans 12 broadens the scope of how we are to put humility and love together as we pray for our enemies::
“Do not repay anyone evil for evil.
Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone.
If it is possible, as far as it depends on you,
live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge,
my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath,
for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay. . . .’
On the contrary:
If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”
Humility becomes an art form when the mysterious working of God’s Spirit strengthens us to love the unlovely by praying for those who have hurt or disappoint us.
Such humility is revealed by our attitude and actions toward God and others:
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit,
but in humility consider others better than yourselves.
Each of you should look not only to your own interests,
but also to the interests of others.”
Humility is a God-thing. It is a reflection of the loving sacrifice demonstrated on the Cross by Christ.
“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this:
While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
For many years I blamed the modern emphasis on building self-esteem as a major contributor to our cultural rejection of Christian principles. However, I no longer attribute the downward spiral of culture solely to the self-esteem movement. Certainly, our self-centeredness has contributed to our downfall. However, God calls us to have a healthy regard for both our neighbor and ourselves as we remember His call:
“All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another . . .
God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.
Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand,
that He may lift you up in due time.
Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.”
I Peter 5: 5b-7
Only recently have I come to see that, even among many Christians, our problem has more to do with our lack of humility in our dealings with others than with our self-esteem.
So is there a way to stop this downward spiral that threatens to divide us? In the Counseling Room we talk about the strength of biblical humility as it centers on Christ: the key to living and finishing our lives well before God.
The artful working out of biblical humility calls for;:
- Prayer, first and foremost, as we confess our need for clarity when hate threatens to consume us.
- Reliance on the Scriptures and the Holy Spirit to convict our hearts and direct our steps. (the entirety of Romans 12 provides a helpful perspective.)
- Praying for teachable hearts as we seek God’s wisdom and perspective on ourselves and others.
- Giving thanks to God that He is in control and His justice will ultimately prevail.
So is there any hope of restoring the lost art of humility? Absolutely! Such beauty shines through when Christ’s own choose to love others as He has loved us–sacrificially. It is the beauty and mystery of His Presence in our lives that will ultimately shine through to touch a hurting world.
All to His Glory!