Here are some practical ways you can begin to adopt a spirit of Christian humility, a way of thinking of yourself less, not thinking less of yourself. It will take practice, patience, and prayer to change the way you interact with others and with yourself.
This reflection is based on Mother Teresa's comments in her book, The Joy in Loving: A Guide to Daily Living. You can read her thoughts below.
From the moment you exit the womb and are introduced to the world outside your temporary home in the warm and cozy placenta, you're told what you need to do fit in. As you grow older, you begin to live a paradox. The self-centeredness and dependence you exhibited as a baby and youngster, is tempered by socialization. But even as you learn to socialize, you're taught not just how to fit in, but how to succeed, how to be the very best, not just your very best, but THE very best.
The Paradox of Christian Humility
This paradox is at the heart of why it is so hard for us to accept Christ's paradigm of Christian life, which emphasizes not just thinking about yourself less, but thinking more about others. We are taught to fit in on the one hand, while excelling and standing apart on the other.
After reading Mother Teresa's nuanced words about humility, I can hear her telling me, "Gary, you don't always have to be..." Fill in the blanks.
You don't always have to be first.
You don't always have to be the best.
You don't always have to be the smartest.
You don't always have to have the last word.
You don't always have to be right.
You don't always have to be the boss.
You don't always have to be the critic.
You don't always have to be the hero.
You don't always have to be the center of attention.
You don't always have to know it all.
You don't always have to fight back.
What do all these statements have to do with humility? I come back to the paradox again, fitting in on the one hand, while excelling and standing apart on the other. Changing your mindset to think in this way, not only pleases God and enhances your Christian walk. Adopting this approach to humility will help you not just fit in, but also succeed as you will be respected, accepted, and receive honor among those around you and from God.
"Friend, move to a better place."
As we read in Luke 14:10: "But when you are invited, take the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he will say to you, 'Friend, move up to a better place.' Then you will be honored in the presence of all the other guests."
This doesn't mean you stop trying. It doesn't mean you become a doormat for other people. This doesn't mean you fail to speak up when necessary. It does mean you ask the Lord to give you patience with yourself as you begin to change your perspective through prayer, and live a life based on Luke 14:10 and these scriptures.
Listen to God's Words
"Humility is the fear of the Lord; its wages are riches and honor and life." (Proverbs 22:4)
"For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted." (Matthew 23:12)
"Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you." (James 4:10)
Also read: Proverbs 3:34, James 3:13, 1 Peter 5:5
Mother Teresa's Words:
“These are the few ways we can practice humility:
To speak as little as possible of one's self.
To mind one's own business.
Not to want to manage other people's affairs.
To avoid curiosity.
To accept contradictions and correction cheerfully.
To pass over the mistakes of others.
To accept insults and injuries.
To accept being slighted, forgotten and disliked.
To be kind and gentle even under provocation.
Never to stand on one's dignity.
To choose always the hardest.”
By Mother Teresa, The Joy in Loving: A Guide to Daily Living
What Others Say
“The more humble and obedient to God a man is, the more wise and at peace he will be in all that he does.” Thomas a Kempis
“A great man is always willing to be little.” Ralph Waldo Emerson
Think About It
Revisit the comments above regarding "You don't always have to .." and identify which ones apply to you.
Read Mother Teresa's statements about accepting insults and injuries. Your thoughts?
How many of either list of comments would you have difficulty following? Consider why.