Humility is a topic that both scares and entices me. It’s a weird pull and an internal struggle because I want it and I don’t. Maybe I’m not the only one who’s wondered, how can you be humble and also courageous? Aren’t the two concepts in opposition to each other? I want both.
When trying to understand humility as it pertains to Christian living, it’s tempting to think of someone who rarely speaks, who always offers kind smiles, and one who acquiesces to others without concern for what happens to them. But this definition of humility lacks depth.
There’s truth in it; I know people who amaze me with these attributes. But, there’s also a distorted way of viewing humility in this limited way. The same behaviors can be seen in someone who is humble and courageous as someone who is fearful and self-doubting.
My modus operandi used this understanding to fuel a martyr mindset with victim thinking. I devalued self and disbelieved what God says is good and true about me.
As far as I was concerned, if others were always better, I was never good.
This kind of logic shriveled my soul. Even so, to rise up and live victoriously felt like defiance and an act worth shunning. I felt trapped in giving up all sense of value in order to give others value.
The enemy knows how to twist good things into things that keep us from God’s goodness.
I didn’t know how to understand the verse in Philippians that talks about considering others as more than significant (or in other translations: more important, valued as more than, or better than).
Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.~ Philippians 2:3
This passage still stops me, but I’ve learned to go deeper. In the last several years, God revealed faulty filters due to unhealthy belief systems. We all have them. They impact the way we understand things in scripture.
As it is with all of God’s Word, we need more than a few words taken out of context. We need a wider focus to understand the whole of God’s ways and truth.
For example, just in the verse that follows the well-known one quoted above, we read:
Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others ~ Philippians 2:4
There’s a presumptive understanding here. The Philippians already looked our for their own needs. They didn’t need a reminder to care about themselves, but to care more about other people.
I won’t go into further depth about this portion of scripture today, but I recommend reading and praying through it with God. Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal more of what He wants you to know about God and humility. There’s a lot to be gleaned throughout scripture and throughout Jesus’ example as He obeyed the Father.
What stands out to me after years of wrestling with the idea of humility and courage, is this. It takes a whole lot of God-fueled courage to value others as more than yourself without losing the truth of the value God assigns you.
What Courageous Humility Looks Like
This kind of courageous humility means being willing and able to acquiesce to another’s need, yet recognizing when acquiescing is neither loving nor courageous, and choosing what is.
Courageous humility means being willing and able to show kindness when another acts rudely. (Though never forced into smiling when anger and removing yourself from a situation is more appropriate. It doesn’t neglect setting healthy limits and boundaries.)
A humbly courageous person is not fearful of reprise or reproach because there is a level of soul rest that stands confidently on the truth of God. Of how He sees each person and what He values. The soul at rest knows the God who sustains it.
Courageous humility trusts in God’s leading over personal desires and retribution. When we live surrendered and our hearts are continuously turned towards Him, humility is a byproduct. We could choose to do things that appear humble, but true humility comes from a heart given over to God.
The courage to be humble comes from knowing who you are because of Christ and living from the source of all that is good because of God.
Humility is not the absence of courage. It requires the kind of courage that comes from knowing God and trusting Him.
How can we be humble and courageous?
I have a few additional ideas, some of which are in the article linked below, but I’d love to hear from you too. I still have a lot to learn.Read on iBelieve: What is Humility? (And How Do I Live a Humble Life?) The enemy knows how to twist good things into things that keep us from God's goodness.