Don’t do anything for selfish purposes, but with humility think of others as better than yourselves. – Philippians 2:3
Humiliation is an important precursor to humility.
I once hit a ball over the fence for a homerun in a softball game. It was my first and last time ever to do that. I made a slow trot around the bases, basking in glory. Then, when our team took the field, a guy hits a fly ball to me in the outfield. I misjudge it, fall on my posterior backpedaling, and let it go over my head.
Returning to the dugout at the end of the inning, I’d lost the swagger.
When you hit homeruns, you want everybody to look at you. When you fall on your butt, you slink back to the bench.
What better preparation for humility can there be than that?
Humiliation forces you to look at others instead of yourself. This is what Paul is getting at when he says that the true test of humility is “thinking of others as better than yourselves.” What homeruns do they hit? What talents do they have? What lessons about living and loving can they teach?
It’s easy to write these words but, of course, putting them into practice is another thing. When I’m angry at someone, it’s difficult to think of them as better than me. The same goes when I catch myself stereotyping someone.
Just how humble is that?
Those who anger us and those we make assumptions about: they are the very ones we should treat as better than ourselves. It doesn’t mean we agree with them, but that we treat them with the respect with which we’d like to be treated, and we ask ourselves what we can learn from them.
No wonder the quest for humility lasts a lifetime.