Ever seeking the knowledge of one virtue that summarises perfect virtuosity, that search ends in a quality many don’t want to talk about. If a good person won’t want to call themselves wise, much less will they want to call themselves humble.
To attribute wisdom to ourselves is saying we are not often foolish. But to attribute humility is saying we’re not often prideful. Whilst folly and pride may not characterise us, the latter is more likely to be problematic.
We may call humility the perfect virtue, for it is perfectly elusive but for the purity of a heart after God. The moment we clamour for humility, pride is acquired instead. So, instead of focusing on humility, we focus on its many facets; all those that are practically describable; those that add up in sum to virtuosity; those we can build our characters around.
Below is an acrostic to H.U.M.I.L.I.T.Y.:
Honest – foremost, the perfect virtue is devoted to truth. To such an honest one, the truth matters more than popularity or pain or pleasure or precedence. This, in many ways, is choosing against the self and learning that God’s ways are best—even by the faith that cannot see why at such early, unblessed stages. One cannot be humble until they have committed a ruthless covenant to abide in the truth always. One sneaking lie reveals a vice more home in pride than any other deadly sin.
Ubiquitous – captured in some senses above, consistency is the main vibe of the humble. One of the fears of the godly is the insidious rise, at a sudden moment, of the selfish flesh. We might be characterised as being humble, but it is the times we aren’t that most of us dread; for embarrassment, flailing credibility, eventually self-pity—the worst of all. The goal of virtuosity is that it might be, more and more, omnipresent in and through us.
Meek – this is the quality of enduring injury with patience and without resentment. Some sources link it with some sort of pathetic submission. There is nothing pathetic about being virtuously meek. It is moderation of temperament: the ability to assimilate the diversity of given situations, weighing options, before considered decisions are made and enacted with mental toughness.
Intuitive – that manner of instinct and insight and intuition that goes forward of perception, meets the truth en route, understands and accepts it without much thought, then informs the perceptive process. Intuition is a free channel, unencumbered by the barriers of distraction. For it to work, a memorandum of understanding is needed at the level of our psyches. Dissonance squashes intuition; whereas tranquillity of spirit frees it like a bird.
Love for all – the perfect virtue could not be complete without the motive behind virtuosity—that pure heart is love. Everything good starts from love. Because humility is, at source, an end result of the deeper good heart, love is the essential quality driving every self-effacing thought, word, and act. Love for all depends wholly on truth; that every problem can be fixed, every opportunity can be capitalised upon, and every person dealt with appropriately by the facts of, and will to, love.
Inoffensive – perhaps with allowance for overlap, humility would not be complete without a note from inoffensiveness. Sure, it is part of meekness. But it deserves recognition alone. Pride, the opposite of humility, leaps to the folly of defence, when such a defence is generally (though, not always) a waste of time and effort. Finding ourselves unable to be offended is a vast portion of God’s select wisdom (Proverbs 19:11), but only through God’s grace can we do it. An effective defence can only be predicated within emotional balance.
Taciturn – like the quality of the meek, those who are taciturn are maligned unnecessarily because this quality is quite an essence of humility. It is those quietly reserved, weighing things in patient wisdom, that answer best. They have restraint of tongue (James 3:1-12) and not because they are wary of what is right to say. They genuinely want to answer to the glory of God.
Yield to God – the humble yield to God in two ways; they submit and they give God a yield, or a product or tithe, of themselves. Those that do these two things, devoting their entire lives to such portents, hold themselves to close account before themselves, trusted others, and the Lord their God.
Humility is an elusive quality to define. It does not come natural and, for most, will never be natural. But as we become aware of our situational pride, and rally against even tiny nuances of dishonesty, we have the capacity, one moment at a time, to be humble—by the grace present and sufficient in God.
© 2011 S. J. Wickham.