I used to think humility meant suffering; humility meant standing my ground and continuing to smile while the heat rose up my neck and into my face. It meant shaking someone’s hand at church even though I knew my own hand would be both cold and sweaty, and I hate making people uncomfortable like that.
I used to think humility would always be hard.
Then, a few weeks ago, I was in Basic Rock Climbing class and totally forgot how to tie a figure-eight knot. The figure-eight is one of the most basic knots used in climbing; it should be easy. In fact, we had covered it on the first day of class, but there I was, halfway into the semester, continuing to struggle.
My only option was to ask for help.
Internally, I braced for the impact of the great revelation. My “secret” would be out: I was incompetent. I didn’t know what I was doing. Surely everyone would think I was an idiot.
But to my surprise, the hammer never fell, the embarrassment never slapped me in the face. The instructor simply helped me learn the knot. Once, twice, probably six times, he led me through the process until I was able to tie it myself.
I learned. And it hadn’t been half as painful a process as I had imagined.
As I left class that day, the thought came to me, “With humility you can do anything.”
So often, I viewed humility as the hardest way. Pride was easier; pride was like a coat I could cover myself with at any moment, something I could hide inside. It was thick enough to conceal the weakness underneath it. The coat of pride could make scrawny arms look strong.
Humility, on the other hand, seemed more like choosing to leave the coat behind, like wearing a Tt-shirt on a cold day when you know you haven’t been to the gym as often as you should have. Without the coat of pride, reality would be on display. Scrawny arms would simply be scrawny arms. Everyone would know.
But that day, I’d let people know, and somehow they didn’t mind.
That’s when I realized that humility is a coat too. In being honest about my need for help, I was taking off the coat of pride, but that didn’t mean I was left exposed: I was simply replacing one coat with another.
Peter described this different kind of coat when he wrote, “All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, ‘God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.’” (1 Peter 5:5) When I chose to stop hiding my weakness, God’s easy spirit of humility covered me instead.
Now, I recognize that it’s not humility that’s hard, but pride. Pride puts rust on the hinges of the door of humility, but once open, the door leads to an easy path.
Andrew Murray describes the ease of humility in his book “Humility: The Journey Toward Holiness”:
“Humility is perfect quietness of heart. It is to expect nothing, to wonder at nothing that is done to me, to feel nothing done against me. It is to be at rest when nobody praises me, and when I am blamed or despised. It is to have a blessed home in the Lord, where I can go in and shut the door, and kneel to my Father in secret, and am at peace as in a deep sea of calmness, when all around and above is trouble.”
I encourage you to put on the coat of humility this week. Ask for help when you don’t know what you’re doing. Speak up in class even if you’re not sure you’re correct. I think you’ll find that the coat of humility is much lighter than that of pride. After all, “His yoke is easy …”