For me, it’s like beer.
To a novice, humility can be like a malt beer that’s thick, with a unique flavor. One may wonder how someone gets used to a drink like this and prefers it.
For almost all of us, pride is like a pale ale. You’re still drinking beer, but one that tastes less like it. The downside is we drink more than we should and don’t feel the effects until we can’t reverse the results. With beer, it’s slapping an ice pack on my head the next morning. With pride, we become out of touch with our neighbors, more in touch with ourselves, and callous to the things around us that call for our service.
Our culture likes to use the terms “pride” and “self-confidence” interchangeably. Pride is a deep satisfaction we get from our favorite qualities and personal achievements. Self-confidence is trust in our abilities, qualities, and judgment to handle something. Humility is a modest view of one’s importance. Meaning, acknowledging another’s needs are greater than our own. You can have both self-confidence and humility. You cannot have both pride and humility. Pride wants you to achieve so you’ll get the admiration and credit for yourself. Humility wants you to achieve to get the admiration and credit for the glory of God.
So, how do you gain more humility in your life?
Say the Litany of Humility
It’s humility 101. A prayer with some heavy pull — a better path than flying by the seat of our pants. We saw how well that worked for Adam and Eve. In praying this prayer, we are not just repeating the way we should be behaving, but we are also asking God to be present with us, to guide us, lead us, and to give us the grace to make these changes.
No one is happier to show you who you are more than God. Not because he’s mean but because he loves us and he knows that humility is more powerful than any other emotion you can experience in this life. It doesn’t have to be fancy, it can be something as simple as, “Lord, give me the humility I need to make it through this day using love and kindness. Especially with those who don’t seem to deserve it.”
Be honest with yourself
When you disagree with your spouse, friend, or family member, and they accuse you of being a certain way, ask yourself if you really are that way. The answer might surprise you. Then, ask yourself if it’s something that can be changed. When people tell me I’m complaining a lot, I tend to go on the defense. The truth is, if someone else notices enough to mention it to me, I probably am complaining too much.
It’s pretty unlikely your roommate will ever change their OCD of how the pantry has to be arranged. They may be willing to negotiate on the shelf that houses chips because that shelf is always a mess, but that’s it. So, ask yourself if it matters. It doesn’t. They aren’t going to change that, anyway, so just accept it. Will the location of the Doritos in relation to the Tostitos matter when you come face-to-face with God? Probably not. Unless he’s a Doritos fan.
Embrace your flaws
My husband gets irritated because I misplace pretty much anything he entrusts to me (except our children—although I have done that, too). I used to get upset for being accused of disorganization when I had prided myself on the three things I organized well: my children, eating, and pretty much nothing else. My pride created a lot of tension and arguments until one day, I looked at my side of the closet — which looked like a Kohl’s threw up — and said, “Wow. I’m really disorganized.”
No matter what we change about ourselves, there will always be flaws that don’t change. We are who we are. If we can identify those parts, accept them, and ask for help, God will see to it that eventually they’re put to good use. Even the chip shelf. Nothing is without a plan from God, not even Frito-Lay.
Go to confession
There’s nothing more humbling than taking a sack full of your dirtiest, nastiest laundry and coming face-to-face with the dinge and stink of our sins. We see how flawed we are so that we can increase our understanding of others. I don’t love going to confession, but I love how I feel when I leave. I go in knowing I’m not giving my all to God or my neighbors. I go in knowing I’ve failed and can do better. I leave with a renewed sense of self and a clean slate. I leave knowing it’s possible to not make the same mistakes. I leave with an empty laundry sack. Although it does eventually fill up again, I’m confident in knowing with time and practice, I can be better than I was.
All things are possible with humility.
When we know we aren’t perfect, we are less focused on doing for ourselves and more focused on trying to help others. We become the light of God’s love working for them.
Serving others with a smile and not complaining isn’t always my favorite thing to do, especially because I’m really good at complaining. It’s also really difficult to find love and kindness when we’re faced with people we don’t really like. That’s what humility is.
I’ve got a long way to go before I’m the humble person God knows I can be. But, I’m better than I was last year. With his grace, a lot of confession (a lot), many mental reminders, and getting back up every time I fall, I’m getting there. The more I remind myself to just get my work done, offer up smiles when I don’t want to smile, or force myself away from juicy gossip, I’m making small steps up the humility ladder.
I’m also a lot happier.
Humility is the fastest way to learn how to love. It’s a key to finding joy in this life. Humility means others first, even if that means being okay with how the chips are organized on the pantry shelf.