The book “Humility – the forgotten virtue” by Wayne A. Mack inspired me, so I want to share the main thoughts of the book with you. I preface it with a definition of “humility” to avoid misunderstandings. In this definition, it becomes clear that as the opposite of humility we should keep in mind the word “arrogance” instead of “pride”. Pride does not only have negative connotations (an angler is proud of his catch). Here is the definition I took out of a German Bible dictionary:
“The word “humility” in German language (= Demut) is a compound of “dio”, servant, and “muot”, attitude, and denotes the attitude of a servant or the courage to serve. Humility does not mean passive servility, but an active, courageous action. The haughty man thinks more of himself than he really is. Humility does not mean making oneself smaller than one is, but the consistent confession of one’s own lowliness, i.e. of the position one has before God (for Jesus: of accepted humanity). Humility is a kind of sincerity, a standing in the truth. To him who does not realise and acknowledge his lowliness, God cannot become his all: “He gives grace to the humble” (1Peter 5:5; Jas 4:6; cf. Job 22:29; Is 57:15).”Lexikon zur Bibel (SCM R. Brockhaus, 2021), own translation
Humility interests me because it is so unpopular and I would like to be humble in a positive way, as C.S. Lewis describes it:
“The truly humble person does not at all give the impression of humility that we associate with the word today. He is not a smarmy, sycophantic type who constantly tells us that he is – of course – completely insignificant. On the contrary. He will rather give us the impression of an open-minded and cheerful person who is really interested in what others tell him.”C. S. Lewis, quoted from Wayne A. Mack
Moreover, it is often the case that people perceive arrogance (“pride”) as negative in others, but do not recognize it in themselves. I don’t want to fall into that trap. Here are some thoughts of Wayne A. Mack (page 20):
3 aspects of humility:
- 1. Definition of humility
- 2. How humility becomes visible
- 3. How to develop humility
- What is true humility?
- What are the consequences of humility vs. pride?
- How do I develop a healthy humility without becoming incapable of life? Is it possible at all?
- How do I avoid false humility?
- What does humility or pride have to do with my relationship with God, and how does it change when I work on the issue?
Introduction: Pride / Arrogance and Humility
Wayne Mack cites two high-profile writers to support the importance of this topic: Spurgeon and C. S. Lewis. Spurgeon said:
“This demon ‘pride’ was born with us and will not die an hour before we do. It is so interwoven with the fabric of our character that it will not part from us until we are wrapped in our shroud.”Spurgeon, cited by Wayne A. Mack on page 11
On pride: “There is no other weakness that can make one more disliked, no weakness that strikes us more. And the more we are affected by it ourselves, the more it displeases us in others.”C. S. Lewis, cited by Wayne A. Mack on page 54
I also find the following Bible quote important, which can serve as a motto for the book:
“God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”James 4, 6 and 1 Peter 5,5 (they are citing Proverbs 3, 34)
Jesus was humble, so we should be too. But: Jesus was not a weak personality. So one has nothing to do with the other!
Statement of the Author
I find the author likeable. He writes a statement that can also serve as a motto for my website:
“You will surely find some mistakes while reading, because I had no inspiration like the biblical authors. Maybe the style is not brilliant enough for you. Please blame me for everything negative about this book, and the positive things attribute to those dear people who helped me.”Wayne A. Mack, page 12
Chapter 1: The Significance of Humility
Wayne Mack quotes John Bunyan, who in his “Pilgrim’s Progress” mentioned the “valley of humility” in which Christians find themselves from time to time. He defines this valley as follows:
“The Valley of Humility represents the humbling experiences God allows in our lives to erase the sin of pride and help us develop godly humility.”John Bunyan, quoted from Wayne A. Mack, page 15
That could be a comfort when I find myself in such a valley. The book lists examples of people who found themselves in this valley and subsequently became models of true humility:
The importance of humility in the life of a Christian was already emphasized by Augustine, who called it the most important quality in the life of a Christian. How do we know that humility is important?
- Because the Bible often exhorts us to do so.
- Because the Bible exhorts us to rid ourselves of pride and warns us of its serious consequences.
- Because God promises to bless those who are humble.
God’s intention with us in the valley of humility
Why does God lead us into the valley of humility?
- Because God hates pride and values humility very highly.
- Because we are so susceptible to pride and so hardened against humility.
- Because God wants to test and strengthen our faith.
- Because it teaches us to rely more on God’s completely sufficient grace.
What is humility?
Wayne Mack first defines the opposite as a contrast: pride (arrogance):
“Pride is manifested in ascribing to ourselves and claiming for ourselves the honor, privileges, rights and power that belong to God alone. Consequently, it is the root and core of sin and is basically nothing but idolatry of one’s own person. A proud person has put himself in God’s place.”Wayne A. Mack, page 21
From this follows the definition of humility:
“Humility, then, is a basic attitude of recognizing our personal insignificance and unworthiness before God and conceding to Him supreme honor, praise, privileges, rights, adoration, devotion, power, submission, and obedience that He alone deserves.”Wayne A. Mack, page 21
That is radical, I must think here. But radical comes from radix, root. Maybe we really have to get to the root of the evil. I have marked “before God” in bold because before people I don’t want to be considered meaningless, and I don’t think it is meant that way. He explains this thought further:
- “A truly humble person is always aware of how insignificant he is by nature compared to God. God is the Creator and we are His creatures.” This requires the realization of how great and powerful God is.
- “A truly humble person has a constant sense of moral insignificance and sinfulness compared to God.” This requires the realization of God’s character, love, and justice… to a good God I gladly submit.
- “A person who is truly humble has a theocentric mindset.”
- “Not worshipping oneself, but worshipping God. God is the center.”
- “A person who is truly humble concedes honor, praise, rights, and privileges to God.”
- “I realize that God is the origin, foundation, and goal of all things. I may do everything in life for the glory of God!”
The author paints a clear picture that none of us can humble ourselves by our own efforts. However, the following questions from the author underline that it is worth reading further, here are 3 of them:
Questions for application
- “How often do you think of yourself and how others should serve you, respect you, and please you?”
Comment: True, we often do, and a lot of frustration results from this.
- “How often do you criticize, judge or punish others – when they don’t respect you or please you – for not treating you the way you “deserve” to be treated?”
Comment: I don’t want to do that, and we don’t love that in others. So I’ll keep reading to explore how to learn humility.
- “How often do you think about how you can serve, please, or encourage others?”
Comment: I want to do that more often because it brings joy
Chapter 2: Humility before God
Humility is now truly appropriate toward God, the Creator of the universe! How does true humility towards God manifest itself? Wayne Mack lists 10 points, and I think that none of us fulfills them fully. It is important to examine whether these aspects largely, partially, or not at all apply to us:
How is true humility toward God manifested in us?
True humility toward God manifests itself:
- By openly and honestly admitting that we are insignificant and sinful before God (see Psalm 8:5 and 1 Timothy 1:15).
- By never relying on ourselves for them, but depending completely on God in all things (see Proverbs 28:26 and Jeremiah 9:22).
- By renouncing all credit for our good deeds and giving God all the glory (see Psalm 115:1 and 1 Corinthians 15:10).
- By respecting, accepting and responding to the Word of God (see Isaiah 66:2).
- By submitting completely to the will of God, even when His will is difficult (see Psalm 119:28).
- By submitting to God’s providence without complaining (i.e., not constantly whining and complaining). See Philippians 4:11.
- That one takes pleasure in praising God (see Psalm 42:2-3).
- That one continually seeks God’s presence in prayer (see 2 Chronicles 7:14).
- That one considers it a privilege to serve Christ in any capacity.
- By being willing to acknowledge God’s infinite wisdom and knowledge.
Chapter 3-4: Humility towards other people
What does a humble person look like?
- A truly humble person is not selfish and honorable toward other people (see James 3:14-16).
Example. John the Baptist when asked who he was. Instead of telling people about himself, he tells them who he is not: “I am not the Christ.” (John 1:20) He directed their attention away from himself and toward Jesus.
- True humility toward others is shown by not being boastful (not being a braggart). S. 1 Corinthians 13:4.
- A truly humble person does not behave arrogantly and presumptuously toward others,
- does not behave in a condescending, quarrelsome, or violent manner,
- is not obstinate and stubborn toward others,
- does not try to put himself on a par with others who are above him,
- Ii willing to receive and learn from biblical instructions, rebukes, and constructive criticism.
This is truly a challenge and a life’s work. How we can do this is covered in my second article with thoughts from Wayne A. Mack and comments from me. I will publish it in a few days.