The Last Word: Humility

This is from a podcast episode of my podcast. To watch the full episode click here segment from the Truth

Today’s last word is humility.

Someone looking over a lake at the sunset

Used Often

Humility is a word that all of us have probably used, and it’s a word that I think we all have a decent understanding of. However, it’s also a word that gets misused pretty often. The reason why I used this word for the last word segment today is because this is birthday season for myself and my household. February has a lot of birthdays in my family. So we’re talking about celebrations of self, the self of myself, my wife, and my dad in this case. But every birthday is celebration of a life. And I don’t think that’s a bad thing. I think that’s a pretty good thing to celebrate the lives of loved ones that you have. But I think all of us would agree that we live in a culture that is very selfish in nature, and we elevate the self too high.

Shame Culture

Now, you can look at opposite cultures particularly eastern cultures and China, Japan, Korea that tend to have a very collectivist type of culture. There the group matters more than the self. Now there are some pros and cons to that. There are benefits in that you’re not going to be super selfish if you are caring for other people in your family. If you care about not just your family, but also your country as a whole, your community as a whole, that’s a very good thing! I think that’s a very good thing to emphasize. But, we can also see where if I lose the self too much, then you get extra pressures on life and you may downgrade yourself to a level that isn’t healthy. In both our American culture, and in eastern countries we are dealing with unprecedented levels of depression and suicide, quite frankly, and that’s really, really sad.

More Self Esteem?

Man looking at reflection in a puddle

I just mentioned our culture is selfish. You might say then

So isn’t that going to lead people to think even worse of themselves? And if they think worse of themselves won’t they be more depressed and have more potential to harm themselves?

I can understand why somebody might think that, but I believe that this premise is wrong .

We need to start with what humility actually is. A great explanation of humility is this:

“Humility is not thinking less of yourself. It is thinking of yourself less.”

So what do I mean by that? Here’s a quick example. Someone that simply thinks less of themself might say “Boy, I’m just an idiot” or “I am dumb. I got a bad grade on that test so I am just the worst.” In these examples you see they are putting themselves down. But that’s not humility. Humility does not involve downgrading your worth and thinking you are trash. No, you are made in the image of Christ and that makes you worthy.

So I absolutely am not arguing to make people feel worse about themselves. If that was what humility truly was then yes, that would lead to more depression and suicide. But again, that is not truly humility. If I think I’m a failure guess who I’m thinking about? Me! You’re still thinking about yourself a lot, but just in a negative fashion. That’s not being humble!

True Humility

True humility means that you’re not thinking of yourself as often. As backward as this sounds, in order to not think about yourself as often you actually have to take care of yourself better.

Wait what? How are you supposed to think of yourself less often but still take care of yourself better? I realize that just sounded ridiculous, and doesn’t make much sense, but let me break this down a little bit more.

Put Your Oxygen On First

Have you ever been on an airplane before? Every plane I’ve ever been on they show you those oxygen mask that come down in case of an emergency. And what did they teach you? They teach you. If you’re a parent, you put that on yourself first. Think of that. You have the oxygen, you put in it on yourself first, and not your kid right next to you. Man, how selfish of you! You’re not thinking of your child. What’s wrong with you? Right?

But there’s a reason they tell you to put your oxygen mask on first. What’s the reason for that? The reason is for that is because you know how to put it on yourself. You can get yourself taken care of quickly. Once you’re good to go, then you can go take care of that kid next to you.

Taking Care of Yourself In Ordinary Ways

What needs do you have? Do you have medications you need to take for your health? Are you eating healthy? Is your spiritual life healthy? Are you attending church or doing your own bible study? Are you being physically active? These are all needs that we have. If you are able to get these needs met on a consistent basis you are going to be healthier. You’ll still have problems sure, but I can about guarentee worse issues if you aren’t getting your daily needs taken care of.

If you do these good healthy things for yourself then you’re probably not thinking of yourself as often. Why? Because you’re healthy! You’re not in a mess. You’re not thinking of yourself as much as if your life isn’t a mess.

What happens if you don’t do these healthy things for yourself? Let’s say I let my body just go, I’m not exercising and I’m eating bad. When I look at myself in the mirror, I think I look awful. Then I say, “I’m so fat. What’s wrong with me?”

That’s not humility.

It would be much more humble to actually take the time to recognize, yeah, I’ve got issues here. So I need to go eat right, exercise and do things to make myself better. After that I begin to gain confidence, and guess what? I’m able to help other people a whole lot better. When you make your health a priority you can help others more. Of course you need to think of others! But I’m saying taking care of yourself in a healthy way, frees you up to care for others and to not think about yourself so often.

Remember that when you’re thinking about humility it is about thinking of yourself less often and not about thinking less of yourself. Ask yourself, “Am I doing what I need to do to take care of myself? Are there things in my life that I’m not doing or that I should be doing that would really be healthy for me?” If you know what you need to do but you don’t because “I don’t want to be selfish.” Stop it! Being selfish means that you are putting yourself above others at the expense of others.

When I’m actively trying to push somebody down for my own gain, simply saying that I’m going to go to the gym to take care of myself, that’s not selfish. That’s doing something that’s a healthy activity. So again, I urge you to think of humility in a way of “how can I structure my life to think of myself less, not think less of myself?”

That’s a very big distinction.

The Last Word