Last week, Billy Graham’s life on earth ended. In the days since his death, the word that has been most used to describe the farmboy turned evangelist is humble. For a man who preached all over the world, prayed with and gave counsel to presidents, and had a far-reaching impact in spreading the gospel, it’s almost unheard of, especially in today’s world, for someone to so embody an attitude of humility. Yet, throughout his life, Billy Graham was a humble servant.
Humility is one of those illusive qualities that is hard to grasp. Just when you think you understand it, you realize you don’t. Most people don’t practice humility because it’s not a quality modeled often in those around us. Society says “you deserve it!” The world teaches a lifestyle of selfishness, pride, and greed.
A recent article stated that the main reason people in leadership positions fail is because of arrogance. The arrogant do not respect the opinions of others, and ignore facts, suggestions, and warnings. Conversely, those who are humble respect others and listen to wise counsel.
Humility requires effort and you can’t tell others you’re working toward it without seeming proud. Humility is a quality you cultivate silently, sharing your efforts only with God.
As you strive to maintain forward motion, consider these steps toward growing in humility:
- Acknowledge sin – Loud voices in our culture do not acknowledge sin exists, despite repeated acts of violence toward the innocent and unsuspecting. Pride makes recognizing and admitting sins difficult, but it is necessary in order to keep an open relationship with God, cultivate honesty in ourselves, and have compassion for others. When sin remains unacknowledged, pride wins.
- Have a child–like heart – There is a big difference between childish and child-like. Someone who is childish is self-centered. When Jesus’ disciples greedily sought places of honor, Jesus stood a little child before them, encouraging them to have child-like humility and sincere hearts instead of constantly trying to work things to their own advantage.
- Admit shortcomings– Most of us rarely examine our motives and actions with honesty. It much easier to blame someone or something for our personal failures. Part of admitting imperfection means being willing to say, “I was wrong and I’m sorry” and also being willing to forgive those who have wronged you.
- Speak well of others – Our world is so competitive that we often whisper negatives in order to make ourselves feel better or more important. Instead, affirm those around you. Build up instead of tearing down. Resist the negativism spread by social media and the press. “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” (Romans 12:18 NIV)
- Choose to serve – Jesus is our ultimate role model of servant-heartedness. He obeyed his Father to the point of laying down his life for our sins. Any form of service we do is only a pale reflection of his obedient sacrifice. Jesus taught that in order to be great in the Kingdom of God we should be the servants of all.
- Cultivate a thankful heart – Gratitude is a quality that leads to humility. Focusing on your blessings and thanking God for them reminds you that anything you’ve accomplished is really what God has done for you.
“If you will humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, in his good time he will lift you up.” (1 Peter 5:6 TLB)
Most people don’t practice humility because it’s not a quality modeled often in those around us.