The Secret to Humility

One of the best definitions of humility that I have ever heard comes from the pen of William Law. “Humility is not thinking less of yourself but thinking of yourself less”, Law said.

Along the same lines, C.S. Lewis wrote: “Do not imagine that if you meet a really humble man he will be what most people call “humble” nowadays: he will not be a sort of greasy, smarmy person, who is always telling you that, of course, he is nobody… He will not be thinking about humility: he will not be thinking about himself at all.”

Law and Lewis are spot-on. As I’ve pointed out in this column before, a regular ingredient of pride is a sense of accomplishment. And so it is in fact impossible to pursue humility and find it, for the sense of accomplishment at the end of the journey will destroy it.

To understand this, we merely need to remind ourselves of Soren Kierkegaard’s legendary words: “God always creates out of nothing, which means that before he can use something he first reduces it to nothing.”

Theologians speak much of God’s ability to create “ex nihilo” (Latin for “out of nothing”), but Kierkegaard underlines the importance of “ad nihilo” (“towards nothing”, the etymological roots of our English word “annihilate).

Herein lies the secret to Christian humility: Only God can create out of nothing, and only God can reduce to nothing. Human beings can engineer the work of the cross no more than they can fabricate the resurrection. Both the letter of the law that kills and the Spirit that gives life come from God.

And so humility is not to be found by looking for it. Rather, it is the natural outcome of looking away from ourselves and to Jesus Christ.

3 thoughts on “The Secret to Humility

  1. revienwest April 6, 2012 / 4:28 pm

    This is a very true word Pastor! We are unable to find humility in ourselves, but when we look to Him and then to ourselves, we will see that He is everything, and we are nothing!

  2. Chris Lovie-Tyler April 12, 2012 / 12:55 am

    “And so humility is not to be found by looking for it. Rather, it is the natural outcome of looking away from ourselves and to Jesus Christ.”

    Thanks, Toby. This is very helpful to me.

    Keep up the good work!

  3. naturalchurch April 12, 2012 / 8:32 am

    Thanks for the response, Chris. Good to hear from you!

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