I was asked recently to speak at a Leadership Conference on the topic of Humility. So, I figured I’d share with you a few of my thoughts on this illusive requirement of effective leadership. Now, I must admit, I began my talk with the confession that I have yet to corner the market on this necessary lifestyle. This confession still holds true, even as I type, but here we go.
My springboard into humility begins with its archenemy, its one-word rival, pride. Our sin nature inherently births something in us that fuels the seed of pride which waits for its season to breathe life. We all attempt to wrestle it downward yet it finds itself aboveground, visible for all to see except ourselves. It blinds our eyes, deafens our ears, hardens our hearts, and somehow elevates us above God.
Psalms 10:4 says it this way, “The wicked, in the haughtiness of his countenance, does not seek Him. All his thoughts are, ‘There is no God.'” When pride sets in, God is evacuated and humility has become out of reach.
So, how do we as leaders move closer towards humility? How do we move away from a life of silent (what no one sees) and visible (what everyone sees) pride, away from a life where we live as though there is no God?
In Ephesians 4:1-3 the Apostle Paul admonishes the Church at Ephesus with these words: “Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” I have found that understanding the word humility here helps bring tremendous clarity.
Humility means the correct estimate of oneself. Let me say it this way: If my estimation of myself does not always include a need for God in Christ to make me whole, I have then overestimated myself and underestimated His required necessity in every aspect of my life – past, present and future. Humility is understanding who God is and who we are not. Humility is accepting He can do everything and I can do nothing!
As we search for this correct estimate of ourselves, we must ask: What are we looking for? Where do we find this balance of humility when we are not overestimating self and underestimating Christ’s priority? What’s the sight test? I’ve found seven answers nestled tightly within Philippians 2:1-8.
7 CHARACTERISTICS OF HUMILITY:
- Humility unifies. I’m not seeking my own agenda. I genuinely want what God wants – love. What the Holy Spirit wants, I want – unity. And what Christ’s purpose is, I always pursue. “being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose” (v2).
- Humility is selfless. It’s never about me, my options and my plans. I am committed and conscience that whatever I do, I do for the glory of God and the good of others. “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit” (v3a).
- Humility values others. I have a high value of others which comes from the many times that the Holy Spirit suggested I should put others first. “but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves” (v3b).
- Humility enters other people’s world. I enter the world of others even when it’s uncomfortable and so unlike me. What interests others must also begin to affectionately interest me. “Do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others” (v4).
- Humility is always adjusting its attitude. I understand my attitude is not the aim. I understand that Christ’s heart is the ultimate example for all – including me. “Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus” (v5).
- Humility doesn’t leverage its authority. I don’t exercise my delegated authority for my advantage. I exercise authority for the benefit of others that they may also have a pathway to lead and influence others. “who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped” (v6).
- Humility lives to serve. I’m in leadership to serve rather than to be served. I’m always looking for ways to serve those who follow me, as I follow Christ. “but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men” (v7).
Although we’ve uncovered some attainable truths, humility is still a master at evading the hearts of our greatest leaders and influencers. Yet it is required of us, and if required of us by God, we can confidently attain it!
Humility will always begin and end with the correct estimation of ourselves. So, when was the last time you appraised your leadership? What’s your estimation? Do you need more of Him and less of yourself? Does the estimation of yourself add up correctly, that there is a God and He is not you?