Why Pride Is Not the Opposite of Humility—And What Is

August 17, 2017

Philippians 2:3-4

3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

CONSIDER THIS

In his short story, The Esquimau Maiden’s Romance, Mark Twain quipped, “There’s a breed of humility which is itself a species of showing off.”

Humility is tricky. As sure as you consider yourself a  humble person you can be sure you are not. What is humility? It often gets defined in ways that defy its very character. Most definitions come at humility in reference to oneself—something like self-abnegation.

Sometimes to get at a word’s meaning it helps to consider its opposite. What do you think is the opposite of humility? The knee jerk reaction answer: pride. I used to think of humility as thinking less of oneself. Later I thought of it as thinking of oneself less.

This is not how the bible gets at humility. Today’s text transports us into a whole new approach to how we think about humility. Check it out:

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

According to Scripture, the opposite of humility is not pride but selfishness. And therein lies the problem with our definitions. They are all self-referential. We can’t even talk about humility without somehow referencing the self. Here’s what I’m slowly learning. Humility is not about self at all. Humility is all about others. Humility is not putting yourself down. That’s false humility. Humility is about lifting others up.

If I am about me, I am selfish. If I am about you, I am humble. I really do think it’s that simple. It’s another post, but there is a broken way of being all about others that is actually very selfish. It’s called co-dependency. That’s where most of us get stuck.

The journey of becoming a real person is the pathway of being set free from the prison of self and liberated into the God given capacity to love others. It’s the way of the Cross, the journey from  being a “me” person to becoming a “you” person.

This is the mind of Christ. We go there together tomorrow.

THE PRAYER

Abba Father, we thank you for your son, Jesus, the humble one. Set me free from the prison of my own selfishness that I might learn the way of holy love for others. Only you can do this Jesus. I pray in your name. Amen.

THE QUESTIONS

  1. What do you think? How do you define humility?
  2. Do you see how false humility works?
  3. What will it take for you to become truly humble? What is a step in that direction?

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J.D. Walt, is a Bond Slave of the Lord Jesus Christ. jd.walt@seedbed.com.

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