Mark R. McMinn, in “The Science of Humility” in the July/August issue of Christianity Today, gives us some guidance in this area, explaining that scientists point to three primary qualities of humble people (82-82):
Quality 1: Humble people have a reasonably accurate view of themselves (neither too high or too low).
Quality 2: Humble people pay attention to others.
Quality 3: Humble people are teachable.
The wheels in my head are turning almost immediately when I consider each of these qualities. One common thread that weaves through each of them is that humility involves fighting the internal tendency we have as humans to say, “I am the best. I am the most important. I know how to do this.”
Humility involves taking a step back and saying, “Maybe I am not the best at this, but I am good at that.” And then it is up to us to admit where we are weak and to then steer ourselves toward our strengths with reasonable expectations of what is possible. The Bible says, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit” (Philippians 2:3). It truly is not all about us, and it is in our best interests to be realistic about our abilities.
Our first inclination, even from birth, is to pay attention to ourselves first: “Look at me. Listen to me. My concerns are most in need of response.” The Bible warns us against this tendency, too, when it says, “Value others above yourselves” (Philippians 2:3). Humility involves being first and foremost aware of how others are feeling and doing, and then worrying about yourself. Christ exhibited this on the cross when he told his mother and his disciple John to care for one another. He put their needs ahead of his. Psychologists often suggest to people going through a hard time in their lives to reach out to someone else in need to get their minds off of their own struggles. Redirecting focus away from ourselves can be very healthy for us on many levels physically, mentally and spiritually.
Being open to new ideas and new ways of looking at things is inherently humble because it requires that we take ourselves out of the driver’s seat. When we are open to the guidance and direction of others, we release the tight grip we often have on our lives. Releasing that personal grip on our lives can be very humbling, but ever rewarding at the same time. I know that this sort of phenomenon happens when people are sick or injured and must learn news ways of doing things or rely on others to do them. Those who do approach these sorts of things humbly have a difficult tame adjusting to the new normal and do not recover as quickly. But those who face the situation with humility have an easier time coping and often recover quicker. Even when we are not sick or injured, living as a lifelong learner can have its benefits when new ways of doing things present themselves.
In the end, what drives us to live humbly is to always let Christ teach us. As he says in Scripture, “Learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11L29). When we continuously let him be our Rabbouni, we are well on the way to the humble life.