an extreme and unreasonable feeling of pride and confidence in yourself:
“Hubris brought him down in the end.”
As a young man, I felt that one of my great strengths was my self-confidence. I felt that my ability to accomplish my agenda by the sheer force of my will and personality was a virtue. I remember sizing people up as to how much effort and energy I needed to expend in them was proportionate to their potential in helping my organization grow or become more efficient.
When we view people only in terms of their potential, we commodify them. And the moment that happens people become pawns on our chessboard. That is not much different than pornography—where we reduce image-bearers into objects for our pleasure or gain.
This all stems from the notion that it is my world, and everyone else is a satellite in my solar system and they exist to orbit around me. This myopic attitude cannot be remedied easily.
The ancient Greeks considered hubris a dangerous character flaw capable of provoking the wrath of the gods. In classical Greek tragedy, hubris was often a fatal shortcoming that brought about the fall of the tragic hero. Typically, overconfidence led the hero to attempt to overstep the boundaries of human limitations and assume a godlike status, and the gods inevitably humbled the offender with a sharp reminder of his or her mortality.
Let’s imagine some of the benefits of humility:
Humility Stands Against Ambition
It’s one thing to work hard in seasons, but to habitually work hard is a response to inner emptiness.
Read these biting words by Eugene Peterson:
I am busy because I am vain. I want to appear important. Significant. What better way than to be busy? The incredible hours, the crowded schedule, and the heavy demands on my time are proof to myself and to all who will notice that I am important.
Driven people frighten me. I know that pathology personally and it is destructive. It does violence to the soul and to the people in my life. To love God is to arrange my life around the gravitational grace of the sovereign God of the universe. It is there that I will find rest—and so will everyone else.
Humility stands against Condescension
Condescension is a certain disdain for people. It is a feeling of superiority. It is to look down on people who have not achieved what I have achieved, or who have inferior life-management skills to mine, or who simply haven’t attained the maturity that I have. It is to feel as if I have the right doctrine and everyone else is stumbling in the dark and headed for eternal ruin and probably taking lots of people with them.
I used to be so sure of my doctrine when I was a young man that I felt compelled to police everyone’s beliefs. Getting people to conform to my view of correct doctrine was arrogant and it was not very compelling. Love says that who you are is more important than what you believe. There are heresy hunters afoot these days and I am their frequent prey. When we correct beliefs before we listen to the hearts of our brothers and sisters we do great violence to the body of Christ.
I love the way the late Rachel Held Evans put this, people bond more deeply over shared brokenness than they do over shared beliefs.
Humility Stands against Willfulness.
The need to always be right. These are the people who will say I’m often wrong but never in doubt. They have a hard time ever taking advice.
A thirty-six-year-old man from another state came to see me last year and as we were driving from my study to get lunch, he marveled at the beauty of the mountains in our valley.
Then he said, “What ski resort is at the base of that mountain over there?”
I said there was no ski resort there.
He said, “But look at those ski runs coming down that mountain.”
“Those are avalanche shoots,” I said.
“Oh,” he said.
Five minutes later he asked a second time, “Are you sure those aren’t ski runs?”
Humility Stands against Self-Consciousness
Self-consciousness is thinking of yourself all the time. It’s being preoccupied with yourself. How am I going to get this done? What are people going to think of me? How are they going to treat me? How do I manage perception here, there, and everywhere?
True humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less. — C. S. Lewis
When I fill myself up with the love of God, I am typically not hungry for the love of self and the approval of others. But if I don’t, then I am ravenous in my soul and people look good enough to consume because my empty ego is like a roaring lion seeking whom it may devour.
That’s why starting my day with God-time and times of reflections during the middle and the end of my day is so helpful in assuaging my unhealthy appetites.
The only answer to hubris is humility. And the only way to get humility is worshiping the living God down deep inside the soul.
Let an old first-century hymn captured by Paul in his letter to first-century Christians help you see the path to humility,
Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,
who, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God
as something to be exploited,
but emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
being born in human likeness.
And being found in human form,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to the point of death—
even death on a cross.
The way up is the way down.