Humility is something God calls us to have, but it is a virtue that I often hear defined in terms of what it is not. I hear it talked about in contrast to false humility and pride. When people talk about false humility I tend to picture pride. I tend to think of these two concepts as synonymous. I think of people who do things for others but with an attitude of martyrdom. I hear, "Look how humble and selfless I am being, isn't it great?" Today I discover that false humility is NOT pride. Instead, false humility is the extreme opposite of pride. Where pride is feeling superior, being conceited, and arrogance, false humility is thinking poorly about one's self and feeling inferior. True humility (not boasting, being ready to serve, being teachable) is found in between these two concepts on the humility/pride continuum.
For me, the line between true humility and false humility can be so hard to see and so easy to cross. I find it common for me to think negative thoughts about myself. I excuse those thoughts, telling myself that at least I am being humble, at least I am being realistic. The little voice inside me that tells me I am not good enough is also the one that tells me that humility means realizing I am not good enough and accepting it. It tells me that humility means accepting that I don't belong, that I never will, that no one would ever like the real me, that even God doesn't like the real me. But this little voice is not my conscience, it is not the truth, it is not the conviction of the Holy Spirit. Where the Holy Spirit teaches, Satan condemns. Where the Holy Spirits convicts us about our sin, Satan attempts to convict us about ourselves. Satan attacks the sinner, not the sin. Satan wants us to be falsely humble, God wants us to adopt the humility of Christ.
When I find myself believing negative things about myself, things that have nothing to do with my actions and everything to do with the very fabric of who I am, and when those things are in direct conflict with who God says I am, it isn't humility. I don't need to fear that God thinks I'm unlovable or crippled or that I will never be of use. Humility is not self-loathing. God doesn't want us to loath ourselves, he wants us to rejoice in who he has made us to be. We are no longer defined by our faults and failures. We don't have to accept a negative view of ourselves in order to be humble. Instead, we attempt to be like Christ, who humbled himself for the good of all, knowing exactly who He was and being intimately aware of His value to God.
What does that little voice tell you? Ask God to show you who He believes you are.
2 Corinthians 5:16-17
So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!