Pride sucks. Get rid of it.
Luckily, if you’re anything like me, humiliation is almost certain to rear its beautiful head daily. We generally associate the word “humiliation” with something negative, but honestly, it can be a huge factor in our happiness. We, of course, do not want to think of humiliation simply as devaluing ourselves, but we want to see it as it relates to the virtue of humility. Humiliation is an opportunity to gain a virtue, which will ultimately make us happier. Humiliation and embarrassment come in various ways, but they are certain to come to us. As a notoriously prideful human, I have recently tried to make a bit of a transition in my thinking in this area (yes, people can change, and if will make us better, we should change). I want to change so that humiliation doesn’t leave me frozen, withdrawn, and afraid to give of myself. Becoming more like Christ is what it means to be a Christian, there’s always room for a little more growth, and “becoming” is a process.
Like Christ did, I want to learn to say “bring on humiliation and embarrassment” instead of avoiding it. Because it will ultimately make me happier. Here are four reasons why pursuing humility will actually make you happier:
#1 Having humility increases your freedom to simply be you
The army is right. Be all you can be. But don’t be someone else! Humility allows us not to be caught in a world of comparison with other people. Humility is knowing yourself, not compared to others but compared to God. If you can accept the relative nothingness of yourself to God, certainly you should not be so impressed by other people’s qualities. You are who you are. There has never been anyone exactly like you in the history of the world, and there never will be again. That’s pretty cool, but our pride says, “I am really great, even greater than most others.” Humility says, “I am who I am, and I’m happy to be so.” It is free from comparison. Learn who you are, don’t get down when someone else has something you do not. That is pride. Pride is childish. Children think they deserve everything. You don’t deserve everything. In fact, once we have humility we will often be mindful that anything we do have is a gift from God and is to be made into a gift for others.
In the end, be you and be free. Think of the blessings in your life that have nothing to do with your talents and abilities more often than you think of your achievements. When you truly know yourself, you’ll know that you are what God has made, not what you have made. Always feel free to just be yourself. How absolutely free we will feel when we completely stop comparing ourselves to others!
#2 Humility changes how you handle the way others think of you
A humble person is not swayed by other people’s opinions so easily. Being overly concerned about how awesome other people think we are will eventually lead to sadness, feeling lonely, and under-appreciated. If you often feel under-appreciated, it’s probably because you’re prideful. We feel offended because people don’t recognize our talents, abilities, and contributions. Pride, pride, pride! Again, pride sucks. Get rid of it. Someone who is truly humble will do a lot of good things, but not for recognition. Imagine your world if you do all the good things you do right now, but don’t feel under-appreciated when no one notices. Humility is happiness and freedom from other’s opinion about your life – or lack of opinion about your life.
More than that, sometimes pride has us delighting in praise too much. When people give me praise, I get much too excited about it. I forget that God is the source of all that is good anyway, not me. More than that, sometimes we can try to ride the feeling that we get from praise and eventually begin to feel down simply because we’re not being praised for something that we did well. How ridiculous is that? Why can’t we just do good things simply because it’s the right thing? Because we’re prideful. Humility says, “Everything I have right now is a gift, and I don’t need anything more.” Let’s stop needing recognition from others, but let’s keep doing good things.
#3 Gaining humility does not change your capabilities, but it changes how you deal with failure
Humility is for champs. Michael Jordan didn’t win the title every year he played. Not everything we endeavor to do is going to be successful. Some people shrug off the idea of humility because they think it means they have to take a backseat in pursuing excellence. This is false humility. It may mean, however, changing the way we express our strengths. For example, someone who is a good teacher may not have to teach in front of hundreds of people to be successful. Instead, with humility, a good teacher will be satisfied teaching a small number of people or one person or simply themselves. Regardless, apparent failures or shortfalls do not change what we are capable of, but they do allow us to become humble and remember that life is not all about us. If we are not humble, we will experience the stress and anxiety of not living up to our expectations or the expectations of others. If we pray for and practice the virtue of humility, instead of being weak, we will be a solid rock of self-acceptance and acceptance of others even when it seems we or they have failed. While not changing the impact we can have on others, humility accepts failure with much more peace, ease, and serenity than pride does. Failure is coming. Lose your pride and learn to accept failure stress free.
#4 St. Augustine said this about humility:
“If you should ask me what are the ways of God, I would tell you that the first is humility, the second is humility, and the third is humility. Not that there are no other precepts to give, but if humility does not precede all that we do, our efforts our meaningless.”
Humility brings us closer to God. Even when we are distracted in prayer, we have our humility to fall back on as the last line of defense. We can say, “Lord, I am not worthy to remain in your presence since I cannot give you even one-tenth of my attention in prayer; yet you love me nonetheless and I desire to grow and become better.” Sometimes it is a humbling thing just to ask for humility (and not receive it immediately). The truly humble person will realize that perseverance in asking is a sure way to grow in humility. Pride says, “I’ve got this.” Humility says, “Lord, I need you.” Humility is so necessary to a vibrant spiritual life. We cannot even have faith unless we humble ourselves to God, and faith is the first “theological virtue” that allows us to relate to God. As Augustine alludes to, there is a kind of humility accompanies faith. Seek humility and you will find the comfort of being close to God. As Jesus says, “Learn from me for I am meek and humble of heart.”
Though it is a struggle at times, humility is a willing acceptance of the circumstances of our life and a firm confidence that God is still the Lord of all things. I am not the Lord of all things, but he saw it fit to lower himself for our sake. Knowing who I am in contrast to God humbles me. But humility, if we choose to pursue and attain it, has the fruit of inner peace and serenity in every circumstance. If I am prideful and stake everything on what I am capable of, I lose control quickly. If I stake everything on what God is capable of, nothing is out of control. With this I say: Bring on embarrassment! Bring on humiliation! Help me learn how to deal with it peacefully and confidently. Give me humility, Lord! Let me never forget who you are and my comparative nothingness. Nonetheless, I know you have called me to live in this world for a unique purpose. May I be your faithful servant and fulfill my purpose, not swayed by the glamour of the world or the opinions of others. May I learn humility, be who you made me to be, and not become shocked or saddened by anything in this life.