Since this past March and through today I have been reading and thinking a lot about a couple of subjects that are antithetical. In March I got and read a little book that expanded my understanding of one of the subjects. On Monday I read a challenging article online about the same subject (https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2019/june-web-only/what-psychology-offers-christians-amid-political-polarizati.html); and today I read another one online (https://www.challies.com/reading-classics-together/10-sure-marks-of-humility/). Not only have I been reading about these things, this evening I began working on my assigned subject for preaching in a couple of weeks and the passage includes teaching about the two opposites.
The antithetical qualities I’ve been thinking and reading about are humility and pride. It’s entirely possible that I’m giving attention to these matters because at the age of 68 I am still working on cultivating the one and eliminating the other.
Writer Tim Challies begins his article “Traits of a Humble Person” with the question, “Is there any trait more odious than pride or more precious than humility?” Challies is looking for a “no” answer, but I would say “yes” to both parts of the question; not, however, to minimize the odor of pride or the value of humility.
As the title of this post suggests, I’m looking and hoping for more humility and less pride not only in myself, but in all of us. Part of the challenge of making progress in cultivating humility and eliminating pride in our lives is coming to a clear understanding of what these words actually mean.
In a lot of what I have been reading about humility, often writers suggest what it is not rather than saying what it is. For example, in his excellent book Humilitas John Dickson says “Humility does not mean humiliation,” and then adds “Nor does it mean being a doormat for others” (p.22).
I agree with Dickson and question statements that say “a humble person thinks little of himself” or “a humble person thinks better of others than of himself.” Still another writer counters “Humility is NOT low self-image; it starts with a healthy view of self.” I think C.S. Lewis gave the best definition when he wrote, “True humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less.”
What are we to say about pride? I’m thinking pride is the opposite of humility and is often accompanied by selfishness. Borrowing from the Apostle Paul’s warning in Romans 12:3 we get a sense of pride, “Don’t think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves” (NLT).
I can’t give precise definitions of pride and humility, but I want to borrow from what Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart said in 1964 about hard-core pornography. In one of the best-known phrases in the history of the Supreme Court he said, “I know it when I see it.”
I usually know both pride and humility when I see them. Sometimes, however, I’m not sure I see pride in myself. What I do know is that I need more humility and less pride. And maybe you do as well?
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