What is true humility?

Most of what I have always considered to be humility is really pride, masquerading as self-hatred.

I look at my life, see my sin and my failure, and I hate myself for it. I stand before God and run myself down, telling Him how worthless I truly am, thinking I am being humble before God. True humility, however, is not self-hatred. Humility is not a self-deprecating criticism of ourselves. That is really pride, the opposite of humility.

We must look to Jesus if we are to see true humility, since He is our ultimate example.

He was God, yet He became man. He was authorita- tive, yet a servant. He was powerful, yet gentle and kind. He was glorious, yet He made Himself unassuming. His example, then, shows us that true humility is in laying aside what our position or stature deserves.

To be humble means to follow the example of Christ, laid out for us in Philippians 2, to take ourselves off the throne and serve rather than be served. Humility is laying down our rights and what is coming to us. Humility is not hating who we are; it is knowing who we are. It is choosing to serve: to serve God’s ways rather than ours, and to serve man rather than our own selfishness. To be humble means we use our authority as a means to serve. To be humble means we use our power to protect and defend. To be humble means we use our resources to provide for others instead of gratifying ourselves. In humility we see our lives as existing to serve God and others instead of ourselves.

Surely I look at my own failures and sin, and I am sorrowful over my rebellion. However it must be the Godly sorrow that leads to life instead of the earthly sorrow that leads to death.  The prophet Micah worded it beautifully, “With what shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before the High God?…Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?”

Godly sorrow will not lead me to hate myself, for that only leads to depression and death.

That self-hatred only keeps me on the throne and at the center of my consciousness. Self-hatred and pride are twins, for they both keep “me” in the front and center. Micah continues with the answer to his question,

“He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.”

This is humility in its purest form: not some great penance to absolve me of my mountainous iniquity, not living in self-hatred, not flogging myself either physically or spiritually. True humility takes “me” off the throne and out of the equation altogether. I no longer focus on my sin, my failure or weakness, for I am no longer the issue. I live to serve, not to be served. I live to forgive, not to be forgiven. I live to show mercy, not to be shown mercy. I live to love, not to be loved. I live to comfort, not to be comforted. I live to give, not to be given to.

Then and only then do I cease from the selfishness of self-hatred and begin to live in the Christ- like way of true humility. Ultimately, humility results in my death, in laying down my life for others just like Jesus did for me.

This post is an excerpt from my book “The Church Must Die”, available on Amazon.com.

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  1. #1 by John Taylor on August 30, 2011 - 8:30 AM

    Pride is a two sided coin. The man who says “LOOK AT ME!”, and the man who says “don’t look at me”, are both focused on the “me”. C. S. Lewis, in SCREWTAPE LETTERS, write about true humility.
    Humility is not when an arquitect looks at his work and says it is bad; it is rather when an arquitect can admire an excellent building, no matter who designed it.

    • #2 by Dave Kirby on August 30, 2011 - 1:36 PM

      Good words. Thanks for reading John. It’s an honor to me that you would take the time! I have great respect for you.

  2. #3 by Bharv on December 27, 2011 - 7:31 PM

    I’m preparing a sermon on Humility and came to the same conclusions about self-hatred. I was browsing around to see what words others had put to it. Good stuff! (I won’t steal anything) 🙂

    • #4 by Dave Kirby on December 28, 2011 - 2:45 PM

      Thanks. And feel free to steal (it’s not my word, but God’s).

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