The Search for Humility
I remember speaking to a young person the other day who told me repeatedly throughout the conversation how much they are trying to work on their pride. The first and second time I ignored it, but then the third time I couldn’t help myself. “I asked her whether God wants her to think well of herself or poorly of herself?”
The question is an odd one, I think. If God is love, and looks at us with love, and wants us to look on ourselves with love (as He does), then it seems then that we should think highly of ourselves.
But it seems that Christian piety has moved in the other direction and we tend to badger ourselves, pointing out how wretched we are, and perhaps in true Christian insight, boast about our weaknesses to others (2 Cortinthians 12:9).
There doesn’t seem to be an easy way around this conundrum of humility, especially for a humble writer like myself. 🙂
Yet, CS Lewis seems to give us a third option and perhaps a way out of the problem. He writes, that “Humility is not thinking less of oneself, but thinking of oneself less.”
The idea is that humility lies in forgetting ourselves, our strengths, our weaknesses etc., and focusing outward on others and on God. The trap in always focusing on our weaknesses is that we are still focusing egoistically on ourselves.
To be humble then is simply to not think of oneself. The less one thinks of oneself the humbler you are. In beautiful CS Lewis logic, if you followed this way, you wouldn’t even know that you are humble, which in itself is the height of humility.
Yet forgetting oneself does not mean that you are not important either. Granted the universe is much bigger than you are, and it will get along fine after you are gone, yet, it is still good that you are here.
Mary, as always, seems to be the prime example of humility. After being told she would give birth to the Saviour, the Son of God, she charitably moves out to see Elizabeth, and proclaims in song “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord.” Wow – that’s humility.