Humility is one of the most difficult virtues. It is something that most people don’t even like let alone aspire to. It is completely contrary to the world and something avoided altogether in our me-first society. So it may seem odd that it is even necessary to define true humility in a place that doesn’t want any kind of humility at all, but there is a counterfeit and it is important to know the difference.
True humility is putting others first, building others up, sacrificing self, NOT by putting ourselves down but by not thinking of ourselves at all. That is the difference and it is monumental. The basis of humility is focusing on others, but false humility, while feigning to be pious, is still self-centered. It doesn’t matter if we are serving others; if we are self focused we have missed the point.
The opposite of humility is pride, which seeks to put self above others. But as with vanity, that is absorbed with physical appearance, it is not restricted to thinking highly of oneself, but merely thinking of self more than others.
Philippians 2:3 New American Standard Bible (NASB)
We should always be others-focused. That is true love, serving others with no regard to self. Maybe it comes with a cost, maybe it will have no material return, maybe it will even be thankless or spurned. If we are concerned with these issues, we are not truly humble because we are thinking of ourselves as more important that others.
1 Corinthians 13:5 New American Standard Bible (NASB)
Love is not selfish in behavior (is not rude), motive (seeking its own prerogative) or reaction (is not offended.) All of these require humility and they all involve putting others first. Especially the last, they simply take no regard for self. Love does not take personal offense at a wrong because it chooses to overlook what is done to it for the sake of the other. It serves those who would otherwise be considered "beneath" us. It is entirely others-focused.
I must confess this is a virtue with which I have always struggled. I have taken pride in my natural intelligence and nack for learning, which may be natural but it is detrimental to the soul and relationships. After I accepted Christ as my Savior, I tried to squash my pride, but I did that by putting myself down. I did not understand true humility and therefore did not truly show it. I think false humility is a method of Satan to maintain self-centeredness while letting us feel as if we are righteous. In so doing, he keeps us on the chain of pride and we don’t even know it.
I think this is one of the most difficult virtues to acquire, one that very few possess naturally. It is not something that we can master even in a lifetime I think, because we will always battle pride. But humility is also one of the most important because it is foundational for most if not all of the other virtues. One cannot have true love, success, happiness or even beauty without humility.
Humility is one attribute that most easily shows God to others because it is so entirely contrary to the world. Unfortunately, unlike the other virtues that the world may admire even though it does not seek them, humility is generally entirely despised because it is not understood. The fact that it is so contrary to the world makes it unintelligible to those who do not know God. They simply can’t fathom it.
This does not mean that we should avoid it. I say this to give you courage, to help you persevere. Know that you will be misunderstood, but that is alright. The world does not know us because it did not know Him. At the same time, humility is one of the most effective ways to show that there is a difference between Christians and the world. They know us by our love and our love is unselfish.
Seek to put others first, seek to serve with no regard for cost, seek to forget yourself.