One of the more humorous songs of my childhood was Mac Davis’ “Oh Lord It’s Hard To Be Humble”:
Oh Lord it’s hard to be humble when you’re perfect in every way.
I can’t wait to look in the mirror, cause I get better looking each day.
Oh Lord it’s hard to be humble, but I’m doing the best that I can.
I think we often misunderstand humility. We might think that humility has to do with understating or even downgrading our own gifts and abilities. When I was younger, one of my pastors told me that he believed true humility was an honest assessment of what gifts you have and the willingness to step forward to use them when needed. It is also the restraint we show by not stepping forward when others among us are more gifted in a particular area.
Based on her study of the early Desert Monks, Roberta Bondi puts it this way: “Cultivating humility also means that we will begin to stop measuring ourselves continually against others…. Having humility will mean that we will have no particular desire to do better than others, and we will not care if someone else does better than we.” (To Love As God Loves, 1987)
Thinking of humility this way, we see that it connects to envy, pride, and even patience – and it’s quite a challenging virtue as Mr. Davis wryly sung.
But it’s okay not to be the best at something. It’s okay if someone is more “successful” than we are or whose gifts get a bigger audience. God has not called any of us to be the best or successful as those concepts are often defined by the world around. God has called us to discover and use what he has given us. And no matter how small our gifts may seem in the eyes of the world or even our own eyes, we are asked to humbly step forward and offer them to the Lord.