Humility is an interesting trait and posture. When we struggle with it and experience it, we know the power it has within its subtleties. It is a lessening that widens possibilities and influence, yet when our access to possibilities and influence becomes our focus, humility erodes. When we are persistently humble, we glimpse opening doors to so many characteristics. We find paths into compassion, generosity, forgiveness, hope, and faith unlike any journey we’ve taken.
The more familiar we are with humility, the more accurately we identify twisted humility in ourselves and others. It looks like humility, but it is not. Wanting humility for others and wanting it from others is different, especially when humility from others is forced. In reality, humility can’t be forced. When it is, it becomes oppression. It is a tool of the powerful. Those in power who oppress others are not humble, no matter how they rationalize their behavior. Having power and influence doesn’t assume lack of humility. Humble leadership can be bold and courageous.
Motivation matters. We strive for peace, establish and enforce laws and guidelines, and so on. When we lack humility, we do so to maintain power and a sense of control and authority. When we embrace humility, we do so with a concern for individuals and community. Leadership decisions serve more as a restraint with humility than a power trip without it. If we understand the difference, we need to be the difference in our influence, conversations, and responses.
It is difficult to embrace humility when we see so many tossing it aside, but faith makes it possible. Humility invites freedom, and not the kind we often hear about in our country, not the kind of freedom determined by documents and decisions. But humility doesn’t allow us to rationalize everything we want for ourselves and others. Let’s not model the wrong kind of humility. Let’s not force it so that it becomes something it is not. Let’s let God do the long-term cultivation of change and purpose and be humble in our relationship with him.