Christ and the Stoics, Part 6. (Humility)

One of my favorite quotes from the Stoics comes from Epictetus-  "It is impossible for a man to learn what he already thinks he knows."  Stoicism, like the Christian faith, places a high value on humility. In his book, Humilitas, John Dickson defines humility as "the noble choice to forgo your status, deploy your resources or use your influence for the good of others before yourself. Humility presupposes your dignity. The one being humble acts from a height, so to speak, as the lowering etymology makes clear.”

Humility is not having a low self esteem. It's having an accurate self awareness and not thinking too highly of yourself or thinking you are better or more important than others. It's being willing to listen and learn from others while at the same time not having your ego or emotions swayed by others' opinions about you. Marcus Aurelius wrote, “I have often wondered how it is that every man loves himself more than all the rest of men, but yet sets less value on his own opinion of himself than on the opinion of others.” It is no wonder that humility is an elusive and difficult character trait to maintain.

In C.S. Lewis' classic Mere Christianity, he wrote:
"To even get near [humility], even for a moment, is like a drink of cold water to a man in a desert. Do not imagine that if you meet a really humble man he will be what most people call “humble” nowadays: he will not be a sort of greasy, smarmy person, who is always telling you that, of course, he is nobody. Probably all you will think about him is that he seemed a cheerful, intelligent chap who took a real interest in what you said to him. If you do dislike him it will be because you feel a little envious of anyone who seems to enjoy life so easily. He will not be thinking about humility: he will not be thinking about himself at all."

One thing the Bible says over half a dozen times is that "God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble." If God thinks it's important enough to say the same exact thing through six different authors, perhaps we should pay attention. I think that it's not be so much that God opposes the proud as it is that the proud opposes God. The proud man thinks there is nothing he can gain or learn from God or from anyone. To ask for help would mean to admit weakness, and the proud man doesn't have any.

The humble are painfully aware of their brokenness, but also grateful because the brokenness isn't the only thing that they're made of. All of us have strength and dignity that we can use to help the other. 

Humility teaches us that while we still have so much to learn, we also have so much to offer for the sake of others.