We often appreciate humility when we see it in others. But we may think of it as icing on the cake – an admirable quality but not essential. Humility, though, is foundational. There’s a Christly demand for it that reaches deeper into thought and character than we might realize.
Many years ago I first came face to face with my own need to be more humble. I had discovered that pride often brings fear, so I prayed earnestly and often for more humility, and after a while I started to feel I was making good progress – until I realized I was now feeling proud of how humble I thought I was becoming!
It was humorous to be sure. But I’ve since learned the serious lesson that true humility is not superficial, because it goes to the heart of how we think of ourselves. And it means that how we think of ourselves needs to become far more spiritual.
Christ Jesus gave us the standard that we can draw ever closer to: “I can of mine own self do nothing” (John 5:30). Jesus wasn’t saying he could do nothing. He was saying that the spiritual ability he manifested was not in him.
And Jesus meant it. He knew that statement to be true, and it’s clear from the Bible that he felt it and lived it. “The Son can do nothing of himself,” Jesus said, “but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise” (John 5:19). He was explaining that the spiritual ability, intelligence, wisdom, and power he expressed were in God, His Father, not in himself.
That’s the essence of humility – knowing that we too are one with God, because we are His image. In the Christian Science textbook, “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” Mary Baker Eddy lays out the reality of our being, which underlies humility: “Your mirrored reflection is your own image or likeness. If you lift a weight, your reflection does this also. If you speak, the lips of this likeness move in accord with yours. Now compare man before the mirror to his divine Principle, God. Call the mirror divine Science, and call man the reflection. Then note how true, according to Christian Science, is the reflection to its original. As the reflection of yourself appears in the mirror, so you, being spiritual, are the reflection of God” (pp. 515-516).
In this reality of spiritual reflection, the animating power is God, and God alone. Man is God’s image – effect, not cause. So we derive all our intelligence, capacities, and true accomplishment from God.
This reality of our being is something we can learn not only to accept but feel. For instance, there’s no self-importance when we truly feel our debt to God for all that we have and are – and know that everyone is equally God’s able image. There’s no self-will when we gladly let divine Mind direct us and unfold what is right for all concerned. Self-centeredness gives place to unselfed benevolence toward others, as we feel our oneness with divine Love and seek to help others through our growing spiritual love and understanding.
Knowing and feeling that we can of our own selves do nothing removes the fear and agitation that pride often imposes. We feel the reassurance of ever-present divine Love, who enables us to do all that Love has for us to do. We know that the outcome of what we’re being led to do is in Love’s hands.
There is so much more we all must do to become more humble. But if we work at it patiently and sincerely, divine Love will lead us forward, and even small steps of progress bring a wonderful peace. This hymn can be an inspired prayer for us:
Take my life, and let it be
Consecrated, Lord, to Thee.
Take my moments and my days,
Let them flow in ceaseless praise.
Take my hands, and let them move
At the impulse of Thy love.
. . . . . . .
Take my every thought, to use
In the way that Thou shalt choose.
Take my love; O Lord, I pour
At Thy feet its treasure store.
I am Thine, and I will be
Ever, only, all for Thee." [Frances R. Havergal, Christian Science Hymnal, No. 324, adapted, © CSBD]
This article was adapted from an editorial in the June 25 issue of the Christian Science Sentinel.