Like pride, the closets of humility are filled with different hats and clothes for different occasions.
Popular opinion regards it as a doormat personality, and maybe even pride in disguise. Yet our books of common language describe it as the kind of realistic view of ourselves that is necessary to share the pain or joys of others.
The more I think about it, I’m convinced that, while pride is a great imposter, humility has many faces as well.
Leading humility-While being known for making followers, the “H” factor can also produce leaders. Putting the needs of others before our own self-interest can be a strong motivation for taking the risks of leadership.
Hating humility-While the right kind of humility knows how to love, it hates anything that threatens the well-being of others.
Defending humility-Although humility is known for “turning the other cheek” in response to insults, it can use physical force against an enemy if the situation is serious enough to call for personal, domestic, or national defense.
Receiving humility-Known for giving sacrificially to meet the needs of others, humility also knows when to gratefully receive help and kindness.
Laughing humility-While knowing how to cry, healthy humility spends a good deal of its time laughing with the joys of others and enjoying the favor of God.
Discontented humility-Most people see humility as a willingness to be satisfied with what it has been given. But nothing is as dissatisfied as a healthy humility that sees unfulfilled potential, or the needs of others being ignored.
Self-protective humility– It won’t indifferently protect itself at the expense of others. But it knows when to look after its own interests to avoid becoming burned out and useless.
If these examples work to show the many faces of humility, they should also show that humility is neither superficial nor pride in disguise. The mirror opposite of a proud heart is just another way of looking at love. When we genuinely care for the needs of others– in the Spirit of Christ– pride is displaced by humility.
Seems to me that there is no better description of humility than that given to us by the apostle Paul. While pointing his readers to the example of Christ, he wrote, “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus . . .” (Philippians 2:3-5).
I think this is the kind of attitude James has in mind when he tells us that “God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6).