The Layers of Humility



Humility is an interesting concept. From the looks of it, we think we are pretty darn good at being humble and we think that we have a strong understanding of it; but the truth is, true humility is deeper than the surface understanding we’re all so familiar with. Humility is something that must be meditated on in order to realize its true profoundness. Therefore, I have come to my personal conclusion that humility exists in two distinct layers: the “aw shucks” layer, and the “here’s the other cheek” layer.

The first layer is the more commonly used layer due to its easy-to-access nature. This layer is not one that requires an abundance of thought, prayer, meditation or teaching to understand.  In order to possess this knowledge one must simply know what it means to be Christian, in the most simplistic way. We are taught that it is good to be humble, and not to boast. Really, we think that saying “aw shucks, I’m not that great” qualifies as humility. For the longest time I thought that humility meant awkwardly pushing off compliments from others, or not constantly screaming from my facebook page that I am the greatest artist to have walked the earth. Now don’t get me wrong, it is good that we don’t constantly boast about our strengths, but that sort of sounds like we’re just getting by with a bare minimum. The reason I call this the “aw shucks” layer is because we have this idea that once we have mastered the art of deflecting complements and refraining from patting ourselves on the back, we think we’re done in the field of humility.

 Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.
(Zechariah 9:9)

In the second layer, humility is more than an idea or words; it’s a mindset, a way of living. There is so much more to humility than deflecting praise.  In 2 Chronicles we read, “If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14). This is a great example.  Humility is not about just saying to one another, “No! You’re great!” because that wouldn’t have been enough to please God; we need to go further. A 2 Chronicles tells us, we need to become submissive. In the Gospel of Mark, Chapter 9, the disciples were discussing among themselves who was the greatest, at which point Jesus put a child in the midst of them and told them to be like that child: vulnerable, small, weak—even pointless, a nothing (in the eyes of the culture at the time). We are called to be this way in the world, to be submissive, to allow others in words and in actions to be before us without the desire of being noted for our humility.

The reason I call this layer the “here’s the other cheek” layer is because one of my all time favorite parts of the Bible is when Jesus tells us:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, do not resist one who is evil. But if any one strikes you on your right cheek, turn to him the other also; and if anyone would sue you and take your coat, let him have your cloak as well; and if any one forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to him who begs from you, and do not refuse him who would borrow from you” (Matthew 5:38-42).

This, in my most sincere opinion, is the truth of humility. If you desire to be truly humble, take this to the chapel and meditate on what it means to give even more to those who take from you. We must learn to be humble in our very nature.

Maybe this is just my own way of understanding, but I have recently started to realize that a lot of people I encounter are only familiar with and live life in terms of the first layer. In fact, I would go as far as to say that it’s a fact that many of the people— even in our own churches— only live by the first layer. Why do I think that? Because I firmly believe that if we all took the time to understand the second layer of humility (the more profound truth of humility) our communities and this world would look much different than they do now.

What do you think?  How can we better live out true humility?