Humility is the second character trait in my series, but once I gave it some thought I realized how very important a trait it is. Humility isn’t on par with many of the other virtues, it is more of a cornerstone virtue.
I came to this conclusion as I was thinking about the fact that there is “false” humility, where we think we are being humble, but are fooling ourselves, and counterfeit humility where someone is outright pretending to be humble. Anything with that many impostors is going to be something with a great deal of value, and I started to think about why that was. Why is humility a trait with so much value?
The Value of Humility
One thing that humility does for the holder of that trait is the security from making mistakes centered in presumption and arrogance. It is the alternate side to the maxim,”pride goes before the fall”. Why is pride such a stumbling block? It keeps you from seeing where you are wrong and where you are weak, and that leads to a great deal of loss and hurt in life.
Humility likewise opens the mind to be teachable. It allows the entry of other’s ideas and expertise, without requiring that the teacher meet certain superfluous criteria: if a person knows their stuff, they are worthy of listening to, no matter what kind of shoes they do or don’t wear, or how expensive their car is, or their age, or …. just name the barriers we place on whether someone is allowed to tell us about a topic. Diplomas.. that is a big one.
Humility sees the dignity in others.
Humility allows the other person to be themselves, and allows the holder to be true to their own self.
Humility recognizes,properly recognizes the worth of others. That sounds like it echoes the earlier word “dignity” but it has an importantly different connotation here. Perhaps someone truly has an elevated position, by authority or skill, and humility honors that.
Humility has no problem honoring others.
The biggest problem with false humility that I can see is the fact that it is often conflating a type of self deprecation with the idea that the person is humble. Sometimes nothing is further from the truth. And even if the person isn’t cloaking the conviction that they are actually superior to those around them, they are certainly telling themselves falsehoods, and perhaps putting barriers to their own success and value that will continue to hold them back until a true sense of value is restored. “Oh, I’m just so stupid” might be a number of messages, but all of them stand in the way of becoming educated. “It is so easy for you, I could never do it as well as you do” is insulting to both your own abilities and the accomplishments of others. How do you know that it is easy for someone to have a certain skill or ability? Perhaps they work very hard at what they do, and you could become as skilled if you worked as hard.
False humility is demeaning to oneself and to others and that makes it worthless.
We have met those who try to convince us they are humble and open to learning, when in fact they are nothing of the kind. They are proud, and they want something from using this counterfeit humility to cloak their real intentions. They want you to accept their person, while they have no intention of caring one whit about your worth or dignity. Wolves in sheep’s clothing are often appearing as humble and decent people.
This is an other-oriented trait. The person who desires to be truly humble has to keep their eyes on others more than on themselves. Still, their openness is allowing for a full view of their own dignity and worth, listening with discerning ears to what others have to say.
God values humility very highly, and it is requisite in how mankind relates to Him. It has to do with our treatment of each other and our recognition of the Person of God and His nature.
It is a very valuable trait to cultivate.
He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.
Photo credit: kakisky