Andrew Murray once wrote that humility is “the place of entire dependence on God [and] is from the very nature of things, the first duty and the highest virtue of man. It is the root of every virtue.”1 Conversely, pride, which is the opposite of humility, was once described by C.S. Lewis as how “the devil became the devil: Pride leads to every other vice: it is the complete anti-God state of mind.”2 Does this mean, then, that we are to see ourselves as worthless? No.
Pride is not self-abasing, but rather self-forgetting. When we do this, we are beginning to learn what it means to be humble, which is the key to developing greater Christlikeness.
When we forget ourselves, we can begin to focus exclusively upon others and their needs. Jesus not only taught this but modeled it as well. On the night before His crucifixion, He did something that the disciples never forgot: He washed their feet. After doing this, He told them, “Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet” (John 13:14). In essence, no one is beneath us; we are to be servants to all. When we understand this, then we can live and work with others in unity and harmony, whether at church, in our family, or in the community at large.
Because of His genuine humility, Jesus saw those around Him with a unique perspective. He practiced forbearance; a fruit of the Spirit also known as patience. Both can be defined as the ability to endure hardship and opposition over time, and to tolerate the weaknesses and flaws seen in others. Jesus is the perfect example of accepting others. Just imagine if we could all learn His forbearance, His patience. Is this possible? Of course! We are all meant to be like Jesus. But how?
How do we “forbear” that annoying relative or offensive co-worker or obnoxious acquaintance? Jesus tells us in Luke 6 that we are to love those who hate us and bless those who persecute us. But how, exactly?
Here are a few suggestions:
• Pray for those who annoy or hurt you. Not that they would change, but that you would. Pray that the Lord would bless them in all they do (Matthew 5:44).
• Look inside yourself. When doing so, our wounded pride or hurt feelings can help us realize we can do the same hurtful things to others that they do us. Don’t focus on the speck, just get rid of the log (Matthew 7:5)!
• And finally, pray to forgive and let go of anger. By doing so, you may benefit more than the person you are forgiving (Ephesians 4:32).
Humility, forbearance, patience—they are all good for the soul.
by Dr. Al Barrow, Director – Spiritual Development Center
1 Andrew Murray, Humility: The Beauty of Holiness, Fort Washington, PA: Christian Literature Crusade, 1997.
2 C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, New York, NY: HarperCollins Edition 2001.