During my time with my therapist a common theme stood out clear throughout – I had a fear of becoming proud & arrogant! You may wonder whether you can have a ‘fear’ of such things but when something causes you to change who you are and your behaviour to simply avoid something I would say that’s living in fear! I hadn’t noticed that it was something I spent much time thinking about but in fact it had caused me a lot of issues. My natural instinct to avoid this fear was to make myself as humble as possible – in hindsight I don’t think you can make yourself humble; it is something you become through the love of others and your experiences; humility cannot be forced. In fact what I began to do to make myself ‘humble’ was far from humility. I began to refuse any compliments or positive remarks – I would dispute that anything good in me or from me was through lucky fortune; that i had or did nothing that no-one else could do. Shattering my self-confidence and self-esteem seemed like the best way to keep the potential arrogant ego at bay. It kind of worked in my head but in reality something far worse than becoming arrogant was occurring.
Stripping away Who I am
My intention of making myself humble was destroying me – it stripped away all of the good – the me that God wanted me to be. Instead I was left with a shell full of negative thoughts- thoughts that when compared with those around me made me the lowest of the low: I was useless, rubbish, worthless, hopeless, needy and worst of all a burden to those around me. The positive thoughts that I had stripped away or not allowed to enter me weren’t there to counterbalance the bad I saw in myself. Many times I would experience sermons in church that spoke about using our gifts that God had given us; but in my shell there was nothing- no gift that I could offer – I was hollow and empty. I would try and ‘be good’ but it never felt like enough – I know now that it wasn’t enough because simply being ‘good’ on it’s own wasn’t actually all that I had to offer.There was much more within me that I could offer to those around me that I simply didn’t accept that I had. The worst part about this process of stripping away who I was, was that I was inadvertently rejecting the identity and gift that Jesus had given me through his sacrifice on the cross – his death and resurrection was to give me a new identity in him before God – I was not living out that identity of worthiness. In a weird way it caused me to become selfish because I was keeping myself to myself; not sharing what I had to offer to the world. Selfishness was not my aim in the slightest.
Low Self Esteem
In the last few weeks of my therapy we hit a revelation that was to help me see how much this attitude was effecting me; I was suffering from extreme low self-esteem. All my anxieties, my depression, my fears,my panic could be connected back to various experiences and life challenges but at the core it was my self-esteem that caused this response in me. I had no confidence that I could make a positive effect on people’s lives around; I had no confidence that I had the strength in me to fight back – I was weak and useless and that was that. To this day I still physically struggle to say the words ‘I am’ followed by a positive remark about myself but I’m determined to let that change. Low-self esteem isn’t humility – humility is knowing who you are and knowing how great you are so much that you don’t need affirmation from others – you don’t need to be with a certain type of people to make you feel good; you can be wherever with whoever doing whatever simply knowing that you are worth something valuable to a God who knows everything!! That’s how Jesus had humility – he knew who he was and where he had come from; he knew he was loved and had value; he knew he had something to offer the world; yet he was not classed as arogant for he spent most of his time with those who’d been marginalised. He didn’t need people to compliment him every time he spoke or performed a miracle; he didn’t need to hang out with the rich and famous to feel special. He was completely secure in who he was and who God was that nothing else mattered. Amazingly arrogance and pride aren’t the route of self-confidence but in fact an insecurity in ones self – a need to have people’s praise; to be made to feel special, included, desired even – being humble doesn’t require this – being humble requires nothing other than the secure knowledge of who we are and that we are loved beyond words by a father with power beyond understanding.
So to bring humility in my life I in fact need to bring in a bit of the positive thoughts in to my shell and accept that I have worth regardless of who I think I am. I also need to do a lot more of what CS Lewis suggested:
So can you be humble and confident at the same time – you certainly can. It is the confidence in who you are that gives you the stability to raise others up – which I believe is true humility. Philippians 2:3-4 “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather in HUMILITY value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” This verse used to really challenge me and supported my view of not accepting compliments – i misread it as saying don’t value yourself – it doesn’t say that at all! In fact it suggests quite the opposite. It’s about valuing others ABOVE ourselves – that means we must already have a level of value to achieve this.
So humility is knowing you are great without the need for affirmation; knowing you are flawed and accepting help when needed.