In my previous post I listed 7 signs of pride in our lives. But there’s little benefit in pointing out problems without providing solutions. So here are some antidotes to the attack of pride.
In his excellent book Humilitas Australian minister and academic John Dickson proposes several means of cultivating humility in our lives. I’ll share a couple of those and then throw in a few suggestions of my own.
- We are shaped by what we love.
If we find ourselves struggling with pride, we probably don’t value/love humility. So combating pride requires learning to value humility. Notice humble people and imitate them. Study what makes them humble and make appropriate adjustments in your own life.
- Pay attention to others.
Pride involves an obsession or love of self. If we deliberately move the focus of our lives away from self we reduce pride. Jesus taught us this process in Matthew 22:35-37 when he gave the Greatest Command, “Love God” and the Second Command, “Love your neighbour as yourself.” If we can genuinely rank God first in our lives and others equal with self we will find ourselves closer to humility than pride.
- Practice obedience.
Bonhoeffer in Cost of Discipleship describes obedience as the most fundamental step of discipleship to Christ. Obedience requires submission to a higher authority. Jesus himself gives an example according to Philippians 2:8 “He humbled himself by becoming obedient to death…” For an interesting perspective on this topic, you can check out this blog post by ACU professor Richard Beck that also discusses obedience and humility in light of Benedictine monasticism.
- Focus your thoughts on the gifts God has given you.
Scripture regularly reminds us that God gives us salvation as a gracious gift. (Romans 6:23) We’re also told several times that our talents and abilities that distinguish us from each other are actually gracious gifts from God. In Romans 12:3-8 Paul begins by warning Christians “Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought…” then goes on to list the gifts God gives his people. When we accept this reality we will have less reason to take pride in any of our accomplishments.
- Develop a habit of gratitude.
Gratitude naturally promotes humility. As we cultivate an attitude of thankfulness we will increasingly appreciate the contributions God and others make to our successes.
- Learn to forgive.
The connection between forgiveness and humility may not jump off the screen at you. Think of it this way. The opposite of forgiveness is judgement. Judgement often involves an air of superiority. “I’m right and you’re wrong.” Or maybe, “I’m wrong, but you’re wrong-er”. Forgiveness means letting go of the right to be right. It allows others to sin without thinking less of them. We don’t keep count of their sins, because we know the length of our own shortcomings. Consider the parable of The Pharisee and the Tax Collector (Luke 18:9-14). Imagine how different the story would read if the Pharisee had wondered over to the tax collector and said, “You’ve hurt people I care about, but I’m glad you’re here today and I for one forgive you.” No pride, just forgiveness and humility.
- Forget about being humble.
If we attempt to increase our humility we still focus on ourselves. The more we invest in the lives of others, serve others, and love others humility will naturally follow us. But if we make humility a focus of our lives how are we going to measure our progress without again becoming proud in the process?
It’s much better to serve others because we love them than because we want to reduce our pride.
What other traits have you observed in humble people that you know?