Rules of a Godly Life: Humility
From Rules of a Godly Life, Section 1 (“Thoughts”), Rule #8:
If other people praise you, humble yourself. But do not praise yourself or boast, for that is the way of fools who seek vain praise. Be honest in all your dealings and this will be enough reward; then others will praise you.
Of all the Rules, this one seems to strike hardest at the current state of things in society. Surveying a cultural landscape where YouTube stars and trash-talking athletes thrive, humility comes off as passé, a 1950s concept. My favorite are the T-shirts barking out some sort of “I’m better than you” message. I guess I’m more embarrassed than impressed when I see those.
Humility is probably what we’d consider a “core value” of the Amish. Simply being Amish is no inoculation against pride though, which Amish know can creep in deviously.
This also brings to mind the question of “false humility”. First of all, what is it? What if the natural human reaction is towards feeling pride? Where is the line between honest satisfaction and pride? What about feeling “pride” in a job well done, which you might catch even Amish admitting to?
The message of the above Rule seems to me that humility is about being confident that credit, if due, will be given, in due time. And in its purest form humility means being unconcerned about even getting credit. Being honest in itself is “enough reward”.
What do you think? And will humility ever make a comeback?
All I can say is it’s hard to be humble…..
Humility won’t make a comeback unless there is another “Great Awakening” as we had in the 18th and 19th centuries. Or until the second coming.
Pride and Humility
I think pride is the toughest sin issue facing all of us. It’s easier to put away the obvious sins with more visible faces, but behind them all is pride, always lurking in the background, sneaking up on us when we least expect it. And when you realize it’s there and you’ve succumbed to it yet again, oh the shame!
Everybody, Amish or English, enjoys a moment of praise, but in general the Amish deflect it better than most people I know. Our friend Paul has a son who is ten years old now. He’s the hardest-working kid I know, and does more work in a day than a lot of men do in a week. He loves it, thrives on it. Recently when we brought visitors to their home I introduced him and told what a hard worker he is. Immediately his head went down in shyness and humility while he waited for me to change the subject. That’s how it always seems to happen: praise them outwardly on a delicious pie, beautiful quilt, a job well done or anything else and you will be met with silent humility. Wish I was better at that!
Keith I think “deflect” is a good word to describe it. It’s almost instinctive. I think it’s a mindset that helps Amish in business as well. Not that there haven’t been prideful Amish business owners. I think the general consensus, though, is that it will catch up to you after awhile.
Will humility ever make a comeback?
Erik with most folks now trying to become instant TV stars on reality shows for example I think humility has taken a back seat to vanity, but I really hope that changes down the road. Right now I think we are living in the “Me” generation where self gratification is now the new normal, and it no longer seems cool anymore to have some values and yes even a little humility now and then.
So while its important to have pride in yourself I still think that its important to feel that your not always bigger than any one thing or person, and now instead of taking self responsibility of your mistakes we now invent a psychological term for everything when no reason can be found.
Owning up you your own mistakes and admitting them must be one of the most unselfish acts a human being can take, and sadly that pure act of self truth seems to be on the way out and I dont have any hope of ever seeing it again at least in my own life time…………..
Richard from http://www.Amishstories.net
Well put Richard, I think it’s one of those society-wide things where it really depends on individual decisions, role models, and the like. As touched on in my response to Keith I think being overly prideful catches up to most. Not everyone, but most.
Rules of a Godly Life: Humility
Lord help me I need grace to be humble
My friend has a blog called “Got 5 Minutes for God?” ( http://Got5MinutesforGod.wordpress.com )They talked about humility this week. Here is just a short take of what was in the blog entry….
“You may be asking what being humble and being joyous have in common. They both require us to look up. Humble people do not look down on anyone. They see the good in others, even if is difficult to see. Humble people have the ability to put life in perspective…. If someone is not humble, they tend to be prideful. Pride produces a harvest of despair, because pride causes us to look down on others, and see life through cynical and hopeless eyes. Just as humility leads us to joy, pride leads us to despair. The process of getting our eyes off of ourselves and our problems, helps us to fix our eyes on God…. When we look up with humility, we look up in joy!”
Being humble is a full-time job for us humans! Thanks for this entry, Erik. It gives us a lot to think about.
Thanks Margaret for sharing this. I do like the connection your friend made. Makes sense.
I ASK…IS IT NOT PRIDE WE TAKE IN IDENTIFYING OURSELVES AS DENOMINATION MEMBERS? THERE REALLY IS ONLY ONE CHURCH…GOD’S! DENOMINATIONS CAUSE WALLS INSTEAD OF BRIDGES,MISUNDERSTANDINGS,SNEERS, ETC…WOULDN’T IT BE MORE LOVELY TO IDENTIFY WITH THE ONE TRUE GOD,FATHER,SON, AND HOLY GHOST.CREATOR,SAVIOUR,LORD AND MAKER,WHO IS LOVE,RIGHTEOUS,JUST AND COMPASSIONATE,FULL OF GRACE AND SO ON..PRIDE IN DENOMINATION IS NOT THESETTRIBUTES OF GOD AND I AM GOING TO IDENTIFY MYSELF AS A TRUE CHRISTIAN AND ATTENDER OF MENNONITE CHURCHES! REPLY GLADLY ACCEPTED! BLESSINGS TO ALL WHO READ AND HAVE DIFFERENT VIEWS!
There’s an old story about a Mennonite man and wife coming home from meeting, and the husband turns to his wife and says with a smile “Well honey, I think we were about the plainest ones there tonight ” So yes, it is possible to take pride in your humility, if we do not continually examine ourselves and what our motives are for doing what we do. We CAN do the right things for the wrong reasons….
That’s a good point you make, John Powell, about there being pride in admitting to your denominational identity.
For several years now, I haven’t attended my (liberal) church, or any church for that matter (grew up Catholic, and still have people look down on it, my “family” religion—how “Christian” is that?) I guess you could call me a “believer” in something most people would call “God”, but I’ve seen so much division within and between denominations, I agree with you when you say “God’s denominations cause walls instead of bridges.” To put it simply, “God” is only one letter short of “good”, and “Devil” just one letter longer than “evil.” I’m on the side of “good”. I feel better not calling myself anything, denominationally, but I’m sure even THAT will cause some walls to be built between “me and them.”
So be it. At my age, I can take it.
As far as humility goes, I’m sure it’ll be around again, although we’ll probably need a lot more than a recession and a few terrorist attacks to make it “sink in.”
God bless us, EVERY one!
Years ago, a Mennonite friend of mine married a Presbyterian who changed over to Mennonite. She used to comment that he understood the concept of having a black car, but proudly kept it shined to a high gloss to show it off. He got part of the concept right, but didn’t recognize the pride he was displaying. As I remember, he was more strict, as a convert, about following some of the Mennonite teachings than the other members of their church
I like Forest’s post. There is so much insight in that little story.
Thank you Erik for sharing thoughts from this book.
Being humble is one of the hardest things we can be. Our egos always get the best of us it seems.
David told me one day that he was not steeped in the competitive humility that I was brought up in. That cracked me up, because it was so true! Some people are proud of their humility, as Forest pointed out.
There are also truly humble, unassuming Amish people (as there are English people). These are the people who don’t have to prove anything to anyone. They don’t try being someone they aren’t because they are content with who they are.
One example of how the Amish as a whole are more humble than the English world is the way they accept their age. Someone in their fifties does not want to be (or act as if they are) in their thirties. Perhaps that is also because the older the person is in a given Amish community, the more respect they get from others.
I sometimes wonder if the obsession with staying young in our mainstream society has to do with wanting to deny that we will die someday… and as we get older we have to deal with that reality more than we did when we were young. For the Amish there is much more of an acceptance that death is part of life, so denying one’s age doesn’t have any meaning.
started with humility but digression from there!
Dear saloma, thank you for your reply..I disagree with the thought that to act younger or dress younger is a fear of death..I served in the U.S. Marines during Viet-nam and death was a possibility then but I think the way our culture is now, I am closer to meeting judgement now than then! It is a violent world from shootings at schools(I was a teacher) to danger in church,school,and on the hiways(I travel I-81 in Va. frequently) sorry,I digress..young er people have hope still, are not as wounded by life and I like to relive those fellings..there are alot of experiences with people of all ages that can thrill and excite seeing life thru their eyes..”We are all ignorant, but about different things!” I believe as a Christian there are no mistakes or accidents..we are in the hands of God,He knew us from the beginning of eternity as David alluded to and still loves us and wants to have us with Him when this short experience on earth is over! Amazing love and grace,wouldn’t you say? Blessings and keep on the narrow road..John
Ask an Amish person her age?
Saloma, I appreciate you bringing up this comment about age. It made me think of a related observation: I haven’t sensed that there is the same “you-shouldn’t-ask-about-age” sentiment among my Amish friends. Age is just a fact, and it’s okay to be curious how old someone is. That’s how I’ve experienced it, anyway. In non-Amish society it seems it can be one of the ruder questions you can ask 🙂
Humility in business success
I’m interested in how some men who have reached the peak of success in business embrace humility. Warren Buffet strikes me as one such person; the late Sam Walton was as well.
I think that “humility” is a vastly underrated trait in business. It can be so tempting to do the opposite. Many Amish themselves have started and run businesses, I bet that a lifetime of embracing humility gives the a leg up in the business world. I wonder how much this could “scale up”. In the years ahead, might we see Amish multinatioal businesses trading on the stock market? Amish sought out as instructors in MBA programs? Or — does humility itself necessarily mean that Amish business success is mostly under the radar, measured in areas different from more worldly businesses.
Humility in business
Ed, I gather humility speaks more loudly than one would think. A related point is that of the person of few words being listened to most attentively when he does open his mouth.
I don’t think we’ll see Amish businesses get to the size you mention. I am aware of a couple of companies of over 100 employees, but that is getting into mega-Amish territory (big-time outliers). One reason is that going multinational and landing on the stock market is a symbolic step that butts up against traditional Amish mores.
Though to your second question about MBA programs, there have been Amish business people that have helped teach business seminars and consulted for other business people (mostly Plain, to my knowledge). Going to a college to teach (say as a guest lecturer in an imaginary scenario) would also be a pretty symbolic move; worst case I could see a person who did that exposing himself to accusations of pride.
President Lincoln must have read the book
I was just reading the Proclamation of President Abraham Lincoln stated in 1863, amazing-could I cast my vote for presidency to him?
Tempting to write his name on the ballot-
Anyway, in the proclamation, he called for a “national day of prayer and HUMILIATION”
Can you imagine a president asking for that? Google the proclamation, it’s amazing-imagine a president saying same now.
Anyway, I do know that it’s a battle we all have with pride & humiliation but appreciate the encouragement to hold that as a scriptural virtue.
Ed, I cannot ever see the Amish entering in to what you considered they may do in the future-just from what I’ve been exposed to about Amish from Amish & formers, just can’t see it.They do try to keep their success “under the radar” as you stated, but we englishers expose it.
humility and ed's comment
go get em’ ed! if I understand you there is alot of pride in all denominations and I am reminded that there was one church at the beginning…the church of Jesus Christ.I no longer give my denomination but introduce myself as a follower of Jesus but attend x church..actually,i was led to renounce my affiliation with the mennonite church because of control issues and leadership failure..BLESSINGS TO ALL…BUILD BRIDGES INSTEAD OF WALLS BY RENOUNCING DENOMINATION,PRIDE AND UNLOVE ARE RAMPANT!
Thanks for continuing to share excerpts from this book. I’ve enjoyed the quotes, your commentary and the comments shared by fellow AA bloggers. I’ve asked the storekeeper at the Amish store I regularly patronize (Petersheims at Paoli, Indiana) to order me a copy and am looking forward to reading the whole book.
In Meiner Jugend
Thanks Al, glad if you found it of value. It won’t be a very long read measured in time it takes to move your eyes across the words, but thinking about these ideas can take some time.
I believe it was Lance here on the site who also suggested picking up In Meiner Jugend, which is an English and German devotional. In addition to the complete Rules, it contains the Dordrecht Confession, Prayers from the Christenpflicht prayer book, and more. It’s a small book; my copy cost $1 (though that might be subsidized a bit by the publisher-Pathway).
It’s described by the compilers as “a sincere attempt to encourage our young people (and those who are older) to a deeper study of some of the doctrinal and devotional materials that are being used in our churches today.”
“Are you humbly grateful or grumbly hateful, what’s your attitude?” is a children’s song.
Can a person receive a compliment and stay humble? Maybe a person could accept a compliment by saying, “Thank you,” yet deflect it by adding, “Praise the Lord.”
Humility can be when you expose your ignorance and ask for help and advice.
Where is the line between honest satisfaction and pride? If you have a baby, or children in a school program, or a business, you can be happy or joyful, or have a sanctified satisfaction. It may help to recognize these as blessings and gifts from God, and give him credit, rather than look at what I can do, or what I know, or what I have.
Are You a Proud Person or a Broken Person? Pride is the opposite of humility. Another word for humility could be brokenness.
“Proud people focus on the failures of others, but broken people are overwhelmed with a sense of their own spiritual need. Proud people are self-righteous. They have a critical, fault-finding spirit. They look at everyone else’s faults with a microscope but their own with a telescope, and they look down on others. But broken people are compassionate. They can forgive much because they know how much they have been forgiven. They think the best of others, and they esteem all others better than themselves.” by Nancy Leigh DeMoss
“Proud People vs. Broken People,” is a list of about 30 characteristics, or you can google it.
I have had to confess pride, especially about becoming defensive or making an excuse when I am criticized. Humility is focusing on loving others and caring about their needs above our own. “…God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.” James 4:6
Feetwashing shows deep humility, deep love, a humble equality, we are on the same common level, we are servants of each other, and that we believe in discipling each other.
“If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.” 2 Chronicles 7:14
GOOD REPLY…IF YOU ARE LINDA SWARTZ..SORRY FOR YOUR UNION,THERE IS ENOUGH PRIDE TO GO AROUND I HAVE FOUND AND YES,ME TOO! BLESSINGS AS ALWAYS,GLAD TO SAY ADIEU TO YOU! FORGIVE BUT NOT FORGOTTEN..ONCE A MARINE,ALWAYS A MARINE!
John, sorry, my last name is not Swartz.
ADDED TO ABOVE,WHAT ABOUT REMINDING ALL ONE HAS DONE FOR ANOTHER TIME AND MONEY INVESTED,CONFESSION MADE AND WANTING OTHERS TO DO THE SAME,ARE YOU WATCHING YOUR SPOUSE? HE HAS HUMILIATED YOU,HIS CHILDREN AND THE LORD..HIS FATHER AND MOTHER WOULD BE MORTIFIED IF THEY KNEW…blessings as always.John
John, I think I am a little confused here too…is this meant for someone named Linda Swartz? I don’t think that person has been posting here.
Great post. 🙂