The hard truth about humility

[Jesus] rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him (John 13:4–5, ESV).

Nowhere in the Bible are we told to “be humble.” Rather we are instructed, “Humble yourselves” (James 4:10). And Jesus shows us how in John 13. Too many Christians get stuck in acting humble. Humility is not an act-thing or a feel-thing; it’s a do-thing.

Humility is like exercise. Imagine if a friend told you, “I am thinking about exercise right now. Vigorous thoughts. I’m an exerciser. I’m cultivating the feelings that people feel when they exercise.” You would laugh, wouldn’t you? Because exercise is a do-thing.

Helping falls in the same category. Help is not a feel-thing; it’s a do-thing. If you were carrying bags of groceries in from the car, trip after trip, back and forth, and your friend stood and watched, thinking, I feel so helpful right now. I want to be a helpful person. I’m working on the mindset of helpfulness. I’m imagining the positive feelings associated with helpfulness, you would tell your friend to quit thinking and grab a bag!

Humbling yourself is hard work. Lean into it:

  • When you receive a poor performance review or are passed over for a promotion—humble yourself.
  • When a co-worker cuts corners or takes credit for your work—humble yourself.
  • When something is taken that rightfully belongs to you—humble yourself.
  • When your friends betray, desert, or disappoint you—humble yourself.
  • When your life isn’t turning out the way you wanted—humble yourself.
  • When you feel crushed under the weight of a crisis or a deep, bitter disappointment—humble yourself.
  • When it’s hard to love the people God has placed in your life—humble yourself.

That’s what Jesus did. Look again at John 13:4–5 and notice the verbs. Jesus rose, laid, took, tied, poured, washed, and wiped. This wasn’t a ceremony. Hours before He went to the cross, Jesus expended energy and effort and got dirty for the sake of those He loved. The God of the universe did“humble.” And He tells you to do it, too.

Here are a few practical ways to humble yourself:

Ask for feedback. Ask your boss, spouse, or teammate, “I want to do better. How can I improve?” Then listen.

Apologize first. Without defensiveness say, “I love you, I hurt you, and I have no excuse. I’m sorry. Will you forgive me?”

Pray. “Lord, I’ve been making excuses and blaming others. I want to humble myself before You and acknowledge that everything You said is right.”

Admit you have a problem. The first step in any real change is admitting you have a problem. What relief you could bring to your family if you humbly said, “I have a problem with _____.” Grace flows to humility.

The list goes on and on. You can take the lower position, believe the best about someone else, and assume that your perspective isn’t the only one. Take action and humble yourself. It’s a do-thing.

This post originally appeared on Dr. James MacDonald’s daily devotional Our Journey and was republished with permission.

Now read this: When you aren’t thankful but want to be

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