Teaching humility is tough. It’s tough to learn, even as adults.
In our house the definition of humility is “Remembering God is responsible for our successes and achievements and not being prideful or arrogant in my attitude or behavior.”
Being humble means being willing to serve others, being willing to submit to their will, but also being willing to do things for other people WITHOUT recognition. Most of us like to be told how great we are, how helpful we are and how much we are needed. In reality though, being humble means we still work our hardest for God and those around us without recognition. We do it simply to glorify our God. Not ourselves.
We’re saved by grace through faith and not our works. Our works, the good stuff we do, comes out of a desire to be obedient and show our love for Christ, not because it is what saves us. If what brought us into heaven was the stuff we did here on earth…1. none of us would get there because we can’t ever be “good” enough and 2. God wouldn’t get the glory. So one of the reasons we teach humility in our home is to remember that without God we can never achieve the standard high enough to “earn” our way into heaven.
Humility also involves being subject to those around us. When we are humble, nothing is “beneath” us when it comes to serving others. I often think of this when I’m teaching my nursing students. There are some in the healthcare community that think once they become a nurse, EMT or doctor they don’t have to provide certain care to their patients because it is “beneath” them. I’ve heard more than one nurse say “I didn’t go to nursing school to give baths all day” or doctors say “I didn’t go to medical school to hold a puke bucket”. As a nurse, mother and wife, I never ask someone to do something I wouldn’t be willing to do myself. It shouldn’t matter what we’re doing when we’re serving, if we’re humble nothing is beneath us. We will willingly serve, without recognition, without disgust and with joy.
The second reason we teach humility in our home is tied closely with the “serving” part of our family vision. In a family, and in society, we need to be willing to humble ourselves and serve others. Nothing is beneath us. We are never too good to serve others. So often today, people want to just throw money or a program at a problem instead of getting their hands dirty. Sometimes we just need to hold a hand, clean a wound, or give a hug. It’s so much more personal and humbling to touch. Jesus didn’t shy away from the “untouchables” in His day. He dined with them. He touched them to heal them. Very few times did Jesus not humble himself enough to touch the person in front of Him. He is to be our example.
So how do we teach humility? It looks very similar to how we teach our children to serve. We do it. We demonstrate it. Something we do often when we go out to eat is clean up our floor around our table when we’ve finished. Even mom and dad will help pick up food the baby has spilled or napkins that have been dropped. We encourage big brothers to help little brothers put on shoes and socks or jackets. Opening doors (a lost art these days) is one of the first things we teach our sons to do for others. They learn to let others go first even if it means they have to stand in the wind, they learn to be last. They learn humility.
Lest you think we don’t praise them for anything, there is a lot of praise that happens at our house. But I doubt it looks like the praise we see on TV or even in society most of the time. We praise them for being willing to serve, we praise them for character not performance.
Philippians 2: 3-8
3 Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; 4 do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. 5 Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. 8 Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.