I just finished John Dickson’s book Humilitas which, in my opinion, has much to praise and little to critique. The book takes an honest look at humility from a historians point of view. Dickson argues that humility is what makes us loving, influential, and successful. I couldn’t agree more! He ends the book by offering six thoughts on becoming more humble.
First: Love Humility
Dickson says we are inevitably shaped by what we love. Loving humility and despising pride is a great step toward becoming a more humble person. Think of how admirable humility in someone is. Think of how being prideful always leads to frustration and anxiety. This is the first step.
Second: Reflect on the Lives of the Humble
Find someone who is humble and study them. Watch how they interact with others. Pay attention to what they do when they walk in a crowded room. Notice how self-forgetful they are, how unassuming they are. Think of what being more like this person would be like. Here is where Dickson recommends reflecting on the life of Christ in one of the Gospels. That Jesus shaped how the Western world views humility is a historical fact.
Third: Conduct Thought Experiments
A thought experiment is an imaginitve exercise that surveys the possible outcomes of a situation. Say you have a big meeting with a frustrated client. Then imagine some of the possible outcomes of the meeting, and what it might look like to take a humble approach instead of a self-defensive and blame-shifting approach with the client. Running through scenarios like this can lead us to becoming more humble people says Dickson.
Fourth: Act Humbly
Often the more we do something the more we feel like doing it. So start being humble right now. Choose to be humble in whatever situation you are in and put others before yourself (Phil 2:1-5). The more you act humble, the easier it becomes to be humble. We are commanded in the Scriptures to humble ourselves (Phil 2: 3-4, 1Peter 5:6), which means it is something that requires grace-driven effort.
Fifth: Invite Criticism
This is the one that stings the most. No one likes criticism. But I have found that we grow considerably more from criticism than from praise. If you lead a company, a church, or some organization, find ways to receive feedback. Give your team permission to speak their mind about things, and more importantly, about you. This can be hard, but it will open the door to humility.
Sixth: Forget About Being Humble
Dickson evokes CS Lewis here who said that the truly humble person isn’t thinking about being humble. In fact they aren’t thinking about themselves at all! They are simply interested in who you are and what you have to say. The more you see yourself being humble, the more apt you are to become prideful. So pray for self-forgetfulness. Humility is not about thinking less of yourself, it’s about thinking of yourself less.