...because you're not.
Humility is one of those words that, somewhere along the way, has gotten lost in translation. Kind of like the word "love." I love my family. I also love pizza (can I get an amen?). The term has simply been demoted from its position of prominence and depth to one of flippant overuse. Like love, humility fell into the same habit of casual use and has since lost the punch in its meaning. Its proper or technical definition is "a modest or low view of one's own importance." These days, it's something more along the lines of, "ego buffer." You can't do anything awesome these days without having to preface your awesomeness with, "I'm so humbled to have this opportunity to..." Let's be honest, most of the people prefacing their Oscar acceptance speech with, "I'm so humbled" don't have a "modest or low view of their own importance."
We've all heard famous people give those speeches... but in typical fashion, I'm going to skip over the easy targets and go straight for the ones who might fight back. Mission trips - short-term trips in particular - attract a lot of attention in the Christian community. I've been on a large number of those trips myself, in fact. And then, nearly as often as you see engagement announcements on Facebook, you'll see a comment like this beneath a picture of an affluent white teen holding a starving child:
“I’m so humbled that I got to be a part of such an incredible trip this summer. These kids stole my heart!”
— The Humbled Guy
Now, I believe with all my heart that these mission-trippers truly do feel grateful that they were able to be a part of that team and that those little kids were the cutest thing ever and that they fell in love with them, I do. But being blessed... and being grateful... are not the same thing as being humbled.
Here's how I know the humble brag is complete hogwash: there's no change. Upon their return to America from an impoverished country where, for a week or two, they lived in huts and use squatty-potties, there is no change of behavior except updating their profile picture to one of them holding the children they ministered to.
No increase in giving.
No raising awareness of the poverty.
No fund-raisers to send money to the mission team over there.
They continue to purchase new, expensive things and complain about how difficult their lives are on Twitter. And that is not representative of a heart change.
So stop it. Stop being "humbled" when what you meant to say was that you were "thankful."
I contemplated ending the post here, but I realized how debbie-downer that would be. I want to look with you at a true picture of humility as lived out in the lives of Christ and Peter.
“3 Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God;
4 so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist.
5 After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.”
— John 13:3-5
“5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,
6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped,
7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.
8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”
— Philippians 2:5-8
We've heard the story ten thousand times, often as an illustration of service and humility. He understood His divinity and yet never thought Himself above serving His disciples.This kind of heart should be in us as it was in Jesus. When it comes to humility, action trumps words.BUT IT DOESN'T STOP THEREGo back to that passage in John 13 and read further. Peter, on the receiving end of Jesus' humble service, displays an incredible amount of humility as well.
“6 He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”
7 Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”
8 “No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered,
“Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.”
9 “Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!””
— John 13:6-9
While being served, he maintained a "modest and low view of himself," proclaiming, "you shall never wash my feet!" He too, understood humility. Whether you are the one serving or the one being served, humility is not a way to express gratitude - we have words for that, like "thank you" - but a way to express a correct view of yourself in relation to the King of the universe. When our perspective reflects the immensity of our depravity and the greatness of God's mercy and grace, we can't help but adopt a modest view of ourselves. Humble action comes as a physical outpouring of that view, not the other way around. If we serve and then subsequently find ourselves "humbled," I guarantee you that it will be temporary because it isn't rooted in a change of heart.
Humble people don't feel the need to say it. They simply live it.