Have you ever observed something like this? In response to a compliment, someone plays down his ability, shrugs off the praise, says lightheartedly, “Ah, it’s nothing.”
We call this humility. We say, “What a humble person!”
Low self-esteem is not humility. It’s pride. Refusing gratitude from others is not humility. It’s pride. Unwilingness to receive praise is not humility. It’s pride. Any self-focus is pride. And low self-esteem is still preoccupation with the self, albeit not the usual arrogance which we attribute to pride.
True humility sees honestly. It’s okay to admit you’re good at something. When complimented, say thank you. You can also credit God for how he’s gifted you. I’m frequently complimented about my piano playing and thanked for my music at church. Sometimes I feel it’s undeserved. Maybe I didn’t play well. But I don’t discredit another’s experience by saying, “My music wasn’t really that good this morning.” If God blessed that person through my music, then I give him the glory. I recognize that God has gifted me and I feel honored to use this gift for others to draw closer to him. So I say thank you. I affirm to others how much I enjoy using my gift. I make it clear to others that God is the giver of callings and abilities.
I know the things I am good at. You know the things you are good at. I also know I have limits. I have weaknesses – even within my talents. Being honest with ourselves and others is foundational to understanding humility. Jesus didn’t shrug off who he was. If someone called him the Christ – something his disciples eventually figured out – he accepted it. Granted, Jesus’ idea of a messiah was not the disciples’ idea of a messiah.
Next time you’re complimented, say thank you. When you speak about yourself, do so with respect – of your strengths and weaknesses. And let us all be quick to compliment each other in regards to the gifts God has given. Humility germinates in the soil of praise.