Humility. It means to see oneself as right-sized, as neither bigger nor smaller than one truly is. If you’re still searching for a good New Year’s resolution, humility might be one to consider. In my work with clients, I have noticed that when people struggle with self-esteem and self-worth, they often come across to others as prideful. In essence, pride is a way to cope with deep-seated shame. Two extremes of unhealthy do not average out to a healthy self-concept. As my clients begin to allow Christ to help them overcome their shame and low self-worth, their prideful exterior begins to fall away. They become more able to be vulnerable with others, which enables true connection.
I have also noticed that people who are most harsh on themselves tend to judge others harshly as well. Whatever faults they pick out in themselves, they pick out in the people around them. They fall into the trap of black-and-white thinking. People are either all good or all bad, mostly because they view themselves as horrible every time they fall short. We all improve with practice. When we practice self-condemnation, we get more proficient at condemning others. What if we began practicing something different in 2019?
As always, Jesus is our best example. In John’s Gospel, Jesus repeatedly demonstrated humility. The same Jesus who boldly claimed to be the Messiah (John 4:26) also emphasized that his nourishment was to do the will of the Father and accomplish his work (John 4:34). Right-sized. The same Jesus who had the audacity to heal a paralyzed man on the Sabbath (John 5:18) asserted that he could do nothing on his own, but only what the Father was already doing (John 5:19). Right-sized. The same Jesus who claimed he had been given authority to execute judgment (John 5:27) also flat-out exposed his own dependence on the Father.
“I can do nothing on my own. As I hear, I judge, and my judgment is just, because I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me. If I alone bear witness about myself, my testimony is not true… For the works that the Father has given me to accomplish, the very works that I am doing, bear witness about me that the Father has sent me.”
— John 30—31, 36
Can you see it? Right-sized. He neither diminished his own worth nor claimed to be anything he was not. He boldly claimed the power he had been given, while continually pointing to the One who had given it.
Paul instructed the church at Philippi:
Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
— Philippians 2:5—11
Both servant and above all. Both humbled to death and highly exalted. Right-sized.
This year, consider viewing yourself with kindness and love, the way Jesus views you. Consider practicing self-compassion, rather than self-judgment. Self-criticism does not motivate change the way the love and acceptance of Christ can. If you truly desire to grow, remind yourself that you are loved and accepted as you are, by the One who is intimately acquainted with every shortcoming you have ever had. Let that spur you on to become better than you have ever been.