Nineteenth-century English writer John Ruskin wrote beautifully: “I believe that the first test of a great man is his humility. I don’t mean by humility, doubt of his power. But really great men have a curious feeling that the greatness is not of them, but through them.”
This thought-provoking observation begs the question, “Where is the power in humility?”
That’s a question I recently asked myself, while indulging in feelings of self-righteousness. I knew it was an important question, but I’m not sure I was ready, or wanting, to stop and be humble! I was justified in what I was unhappy about – or, at least, I made myself believe that I was.
But I knew better. In fact, through my study of Christian Science over the years, I’d learned some valuable life lessons about humility, teaching me how powerful it actually is. The first time I was introduced to the value of humility was when I learned of Christ Jesus’ counsel, “Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth” (Matthew 5:5).
It can be tempting to believe that meekness and humility equal weakness. But Jesus’ incredible accomplishments point to an understanding of meekness that is much more than that. In one particular statement, Jesus revealed this deeper meaning of humility. He said, “I do nothing of myself; but as my Father hath taught me” (John 8:28). Obviously, he wasn’t saying that he couldn’t do anything. He did amazing things – healing, raising the dead, walking on water, feeding multitudes – and led the way for others to follow in his example. Yet he was humble enough to realize that his divine Father, God, was the source of his ability. And he taught that God is also our Father – that God created each of us in His spiritual likeness (see Genesis 1:26, 27), and therefore is the true source of our abilities, too.
The greatness and magnitude of God’s power, which governs the entire spiritual universe, are infinite. Christian Science reveals that God is omnipresent Spirit, completely good, the only cause. As the effect of this great cause, we are each God’s perfect, spiritual offspring. This means that despite how it may seem when we look around, in truth you, I, and everyone exist spiritually – exclusively and entirely.
Humbly acknowledging that our source and being are in God opens the door for our true, good, capable nature to show through us more fully. Self-righteously, angrily clinging to a personal opinion obscures our view of that real nature of ours as God’s spiritual creation. On the other hand, when embracing God’s loving authority with all our heart, we naturally begin to abandon self-righteousness. This is humility in action. Jesus showed that such humility enables us to move forward and experience healing and harmony.
So the other day, when I was feeling that obnoxious sense of self-righteousness, I caught myself and considered my identity as the reflection of God, the source of all good. And harmony as well as freedom from those self-righteous feelings resulted from doing so, helping me see the power in humility. Always and everywhere, the one true power is God. Reality, gratefully, is in God’s perfect goodness, which through humble prayer can be evidenced in our lives in tangible ways.
Monitor founder Mary Baker Eddy explains in her book “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures”: “The conceptions of mortal, erring thought must give way to the ideal of all that is perfect and eternal” (p. 260). In light of that, I see that I have more to learn on the path to discovering “the ideal of all that is perfect and eternal,” and truly understanding that God is the only source and power, creating all as perfect and eternal. Yet it’s good to acknowledge progress. We all should do that. Step by step, as we prayerfully come to trust in God’s supremacy and our relation to Him as His reflection, we find the humility that brings healing to us and our world – even while we’re learning.