A generation ago, Mac Davis wrote and released a tongue-in-cheek novelty song, “It’s Hard to Be Humble“, which humorously detailed how great it was to be him! An icon, an object of admiration, constantly getting better and better. The thrust of the song is best summed up in the last lines of the refrain:
Oh Lord, it’s hard to be humble
But I’m doin’ the best that I can
I myself turned 42 last month. My hair is long gone and my midsection is suffering from continental drift. My children no longer think I’m all that clever or funny. Instead of having it more and more figured out, I find more and more that I have a long way to go. I’m no model of perfection in physical, mental, or spiritual terms. Even the things that I’m allegedly good at are easily surpassed, eclipsed, or outdone. If anyone should find it easy to be humble, it’s me!
But see, that’s the thing. Even for me, it’s hard to be humble.
As I write this, I find my thoughts going to, “But let me tell you what I am good at”! I’m sure most of us find ways to rationalize our weaknesses, to talk up our strengths, and to present a picture of ourselves that is unique, special, and worthy. But the more I try to justify my own existence in the eyes of those around me, the more I (and they) will be disappointed. Doesn’t the Bible call us to humility? Yes it does, and repeatedly so.
In that case, how can I be just as humble as possible? Well (avoiding all bad jokes about how humility is my greatest characteristic), humility is the opposite of pride. So to be humble is to rid myself of pride. Anything of myself that is of value in this world must be minimized so it does not become an object of pride for me. If I’m good at something, I won’t do it, or at least I won’t call attention to it. If I can keep myself as low as possible, surely that’s the essence of humility.
Wait, that’s not really it either. When I’m paralyzed by my own lack of worth, how can I serve? How can I love? These involve giving of myself, doing what is best for someone else, even when it costs me. If there’s nothing of value in me, there’s no “myself” to give of.
If I’m not meant to be prideful, but also not meant to see myself as worthless, what is the right posture for a believer to be humble? I would argue that it’s less about what I have or don’t have, what I am or am not, what I can or cannot; and more about Who brings all of these things together in me. In other words, if I have some greatness to offer the world, I don’t rest in or take credit for that greatness. It is the grace of God, to be used for His purposes. And if I don’t have some greatness, I rest in the fact that my value is not based on what gifts and assets I have. It’s an idea hinted at in 1 Peter 4:11:
Whoever speaks, is to do so as one who is speaking the utterances of God; whoever serves is to do so as one who is serving by the strength which God supplies; so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.
This verse tells me that I am called to serve in God’s Kingdom, which means I must have something. But whatever value I may have is given because of God’s grace. It is enabled by God’s strength and wisdom. And it is for the purpose of bringing glory not to myself, but to God. With this perspective, I could be the most capable, gifted, and attractive person in the world and still be humble, since none of it is from me. And for those of us who are lower on the scale, we can also focus on the Giver instead of the gifts and still choose to serve boldly as we go.
So is it hard to be humble? Yes, but not for the reason you think. Humility, it seems, is not about what I can do or not do. It is about acknowledging that whatever I am, I am by God’s grace.
Where do you find it hard to be humble?