If you were to single out one quality you most admire in other people, what would it be?
Determination? Intelligence? Charisma? Perseverance? Wisdom? Strength? Patience? Creativity? Enthusiasm? Compassion?
We'd probably like to have any of those qualities – especially those we don’t have now. You could list many others. But one quality receives almost universal admiration, yet it’s a trait you can’t be proud to have. Here’s a hint – we didn’t see much of it during the recent political campaigns:
Think about it: In sports and entertainment, there’s so much “Look at me!” Isn’t it refreshing when someone displays a humble, even self-effacing attitude? A star player that credits his team for success rather than mugging for the camera or hogging the spotlight? A celebrity that doesn’t seem full of herself?
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In his acclaimed book, Good to Great, author Jim Collins conducted extensive research to determine why top companies excelled. Results could not ignore the role of the CEO, Collins reported. But the leaders of those organizations exhibited two common traits – great determination, and great humility. In most cases, rather than accepting credit for how their businesses excelled, they redirected praise to their staff and employees.
There’s something endearing about high achievers with an “aw, shucks” attitude. Many of us gladly accept recognition for even small accomplishments. But in an time when people become famous simply for being famous, the person exhibiting genuine humility is an anomaly.
Did you hear the story about the service club member that received the award for having the most humility? They took back the award when he put it on display.
Humility and its antithesis, pride, can be traced to earliest recorded history. You could say the scriptural account of “the Fall of Man” resulted from a lack of humility – the desire of Adam and Eve to be gods of their own lives, rather than submit to their Creator.
One of my favorite books in the Bible, Proverbs, says much about humility and pride:
“Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall” (Proverbs 16:18).
“Before his downfall a man’s heart is proud, but humility comes before honor” (Proverbs 18:12).
“Humility and the fear of the Lord bring wealth and honor and life” (Proverbs 22:4).
“The crucible for silver and the furnace for gold, but a man is tested by the praise he receives” (Proverbs 27:21).
Of course, the greatest biblical example of humility is Jesus. Despite being God incarnate, He was born in the humblest of circumstances, dispensed with the luxuries of His time, relied on the kindness of people that followed Him, and willingly gave His own life for the sins of mankind. “And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death, even dead on a cross” (Philippians 2:8).
What should Jesus expect of those claiming to be His followers? It’s simple: Pursue and practice humility. “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up” (James 4:10).