Hello, my name is Danielle, and I have a pride problem.
When I was young, I thought I was a pretty humble person. I didn’t have a very high opinion of myself. In fact, I was insecure and had a low self-esteem! When I was a little older, I thought I was a pretty humble person, because I balanced my opinion of myself, like a seesaw with ego on one side and self-hate on the other. My dad told me humble people don’t realize they’re humble, so I self-righteously convinced myself that I wasn’t humble, even though I secretly knew better.
However, all of my attempts at attaining humility were focused on my opinion of me. In fact, during the time I struggled with insecurity, Dad told me outright that I was dealing with pride, and I was horribly offended. ME? Prideful? Oh puh-lease.
Most of us seem to think that humility is either having a low opinion of ourselves or having a higher opinion of those around us than of ourselves. Believe me, I’ve tried both, and neither one brought humility.
Pride is the real root here. Humility, I’ve come to realize, is an absence of pride. Pride is an obsession with self – with me. When I thought I was humble because I had a low self-worth, I was focusing on me. Humility is not the seesaw I thought it was, either. When I was trying to balance my seesaw, my focus was still on me.
Humility is not about how good or bad I think I am.
Humility is whether or not I take my eyes off me and put my focus on God.
This is so foundational, because when my focus is on me, I live out of a me-centered Gospel. I read my Bible to see what God will do for me, live as an individual, and basically, become my own idol. When I choose to crucify myself, live in Christ, and set my focus on Him, I’m empowered to live out a Christ-centered Gospel, functioning as a unit in the family of God, a part of a plan bigger than just me, my family, my church, or my country. My life becomes about the glory of God and I’m set free to further the cause of Christ.
A word about identity
Here’s where we often get off track. When I was struggling to balance my low self-worth with my ego (because let’s be honest, I’ve got one), everyone told me to find my identity in Christ. I had no clue what that meant, but I decided that it must mean finding my identity in how God saw me instead of how people saw me. Which is partially true, but mostly not. I searched the Scriptures to see how God felt about me. The problem is that when I felt rejected, telling myself that I was the apple of His eye didn’t make me feel any better. My focus, even though I was using Scripture, was still ME.
I’ve learned that identity can only be found in Christ when you realize that you don’t actually matter that much. Your worth is not found in you at all, and you’ll never find it until you take your focus off of yourself. You can’t pump your ego into feeling confident and glorify God at the same time. Paul gives the perfect response to self-love/hate in Philippians 3:
“…[we] worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh – though I myself have reason for confidence in the flesh also. If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: [insert Paul’s accomplishments]. But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith – that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead [emphasis added].”
Paul doesn’t get his identity and security from that list of great things, but in the extent to which he knows Christ. That’s how we find our identity in Christ. We take our eyes off of ourselves and set them on Christ, and we declare all else to be rubbish, that we may know Christ Jesus, become like Him in His sufferings, and be found in His righteousness.
Back to humility
Humility works the same way. Rick Warren wrote that true humility “is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less.” It’s getting rid of pride – taking your focus off of you and setting it on God instead. Unfortunately, pride can’t be eradicated through a 30 minute devotional or three-step procedure. Humility only comes through a thousand small everyday decisions. It takes consciously placing your focus on God, valuing others above yourself, and not allowing yourself to dwell on thoughts of you. We’ve heard the advice so many times that it’s become cliche, but it’s true.
For me, this means prioritizing devotions, prayer, and time with God. I’ve been reading more – filling my mind with things of God. I love old country music and folk songs, but I’ve consciously started weeding that out and listening to music that sets my focus on God. I’ve tried hard to value other people through serving them, forgiving them, and purposely pouring into them. The old saying is true, isn’t it? We are what we fill our minds with. I’ve tried all the other ways, and this is the only thing that has actually gotten me anywhere.
Not that I’m proud of my progress or anything.
You can’t get humility by trying to fix the way you see yourself or by dredging up greater appreciation for the people around you than for yourself. You can only get humility by setting yourself aside, gritting your teeth, and focusing on God. I say gritting your teeth because our flesh rebels at every point. We want to think about ourselves, and growing humility requires us to consciously stop thinking about ourselves, over and over and over. Set your eyes on God, be willing to suffer for Him, and count everything as loss for the surpassing worth of knowing Him!
You probably won’t even notice, but you’ll start thinking about yourself less and less, and guess what? One day you’ll realize that those old insecurities are fading and you have self-confidence that doesn’t come from who you are, what you’re good at, or how you look. Rather, your security comes from knowing your God walks beside you, that He’ll never leave you, and that you really are precious and honored in His eyes, and He loves you (Isaiah 43:4).
|Danielle Mast lives with her family in Seneca, South Carolina. She is the oldest of five, going on eight, as her family waits for their adoption process to be completed. She loves learning, good conversations, blow pops, fall, and rain. Her everyday goal is to live purposefully, fully satisfied in Christ, as she endeavors to learn to wait. In the future, she dreams of using a cotton candy machine, being more actively involved in mission work, and writing a really good piece of poetry. Danielle’s passion is to see those around her inspired to reach their full potential in Christ.|