We don’t often think of our leaders, or others who hold power, as being humble—because, frankly, most of them are not. Instead, we set them apart from us, even above us.
But when offered a ride in limo after becoming Pope, Associated Press reports that Pope Francis replied, “I’ll just go with the guys on the bus.”
That’s Humility. A big, big word–not easy to accomplish.
When we talk about being humble, many people picture sort of a slumped and wimpy individual with eyes and head down. But that isn’t humility.
Humility is a virtue, in contrast to narcissism, hubris and other forms of pride. And it is often the most disregarded teachings–indeed, commandments– of Jesus, because it’s so hard to let go of our love of self.
I remember a song from many years ago–a fun song my girl friends and I loved to parody. It began: “Oh Lord, it’s hard to be humble, when you’re perfect in every way!”
Of course, we knew we weren’t perfect, but maybe that’s why we tried to act a if we were. Because of an immature pride, we wanted everyone to perceive us as more, as better, as greater than we were. We did not realize that real greatness is always found in the service of others.
C.S. Lewis writes, in Mere Christianity, that pride is the “anti-god” state, the position in which the ego and the self is directly opposed to God: “Unchastity, anger, greed, drunkenness, and all that, are mere fleabites in comparison: it was through Pride that the devil became the devil: Pride leads to every other vice: it is the complete anti-God state of mind.”
In contrast, Lewis states that, in Christian moral teaching, the opposite of pride is humility and, in his famous phrase, “Humility is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less.”
How much more could we become in our short lives on Earth if we thought less of ourselves—less about how we look, about what others think of us, about how we can best a situation to our own advantage? Just think of the serious stress that we could remove from our everyday worry about Me. Me. Me. And the serious joy we could receive through a genuine concern about You. You. You.
I think our own image when we look in the mirror would be greatly enhanced.
After all, we may look great in our skin-tight jeans, with our perfect hair, and money in our pocket—but I don’t think that’s the ticket to eternal life. Do you?