We may look at humility as a three part definition composed of:
- Use of power
The word humility comes from the word Humus which means from the earth, also lowly and of low rank. In the Ancient church humility was considered to be part of the virtue of temperance and carried the connotation of making ones self of a lesser value in the eyes of others. In the tradition of Catholic penance after confession of sins before a priest, the penitent person would have to perform an act of penance which involved prayer and some form of a humiliating act that would be considered painful. We still see this in the Philippines today from the Flagellantes
|All we really are is just the dust of the Earth|
HumiliationSo literally the word “humiliation” was intended to partly be part of the virtue of temperance due to the fact that keeping ones self low to the “dust from which thou shalt return…” was considered keeping oneself temperate in behavior and attitude.
However, just as with everything in life, there is a proper balance to how a person should react. The thought pattern was that to take a lesser seat at a party or in a meeting was better suited because if a person was moved up to a place of honor it was type of promotion, but to be lowered by another was a type of punishment. This could literally be considered "humiliation". A humble person therefore was temperate and in control of his or her actions and did not need correction by another (Paul: if we judge ourselves we need not be judged).
Then at other times, it was necessary for a person to humiliate them selves for varied purposes. I always liked the story that Chuck Norris related in one of his books. He stated while working on Walker, Texas Ranger he went to a bar and waited for his stunt team which would join him shortly. There was a rough looking guy that wanted to pick a fight with him because Chuck was sitting in the other man’s favorite booth. Chuck moved and replied something like “OK”. It wasn’t until later that the man realized he was “Chuck Norris” and abruptly apologized to him. I have heard of many martial artists that have turned the other cheek or backed down from a fight simply because they either had nothing to prove or were not emotionally attached to the situation by pride, arrogance or presumption. Here we see the temperance of a martial artist.
TemperanceHumiliation is only half of the subject because the very act of being humble has often led to the negative stereotypes of the Christian being a doormat and unable to do anything other than being walked on. This image is lampooned in the media by way of cartoons, movies, sitcoms and even on record albums. Let us look at the real meaning by way of greatest example of all, the Lord Jesus Christ. In the garden of Gethsemane as recorded in the Gospel of Luke we read that Jesus prayed in distress, And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood Luke 22:44
Even his close disciples noticed and recorded how different this was. One commentator of old made the statement that Jesus had to bear all the sins of man kind from past, present and future. Jesus was fully man and fully God, and fully sinless. To take on this unimaginable amount of the worlds sin as a perfect sacrifice is beyond imagination! This is something only he was capable of and after his prayer with God the Father he took up his yoke to bear humankind’s iniquities. If we look at the accounts in John after his prayers, the mob from the religious elders went to arrest him. Jesus asked “whom seek ye?” (who are you looking for?) When he replied with the words “I AM” the mob fell down twice from his very power as the Son of God! See John 18:4-10) If we look at it, carefully he could have run the mob away with his very power of speaking in his divine power “I AM”. I could go into some more information that we see God speaking the words “I AM” to Moses when he commissioned him to go into Egypt, but we shall leave it here that the very power of his words and presence was enough to stop the mob, but he chose not to. Even in the commotion, he found time to heal a man’s (Malchus the High priest’s servant) ear from the attack of the apostle Peter who cut it off. Jesus even stated he could easily have summoned 12 legions of angels, yet allowed himself to be arrested like a hunted criminal. He allowed himself to be arrested, at night, for a kangaroo court trial! (Matthew 26:52-58) This broke several Jewish laws. This is above and beyond what anyone at the time could imagine! Think about how many times we as Americans have had our rights infringed upon, and complain! A person who will allow themselves to be “humiliated” yet still be so much in control of the situation that it is almost ridiculous for the assailants to continue. How blind they were, and in control Jesus was! To the outside observer with all the facts (Such as us when viewing all bible accounts today) we have a much clearer view of what the humiliation view in humility really is. This is only up to his arrest, consider the rest of his account up to the cross! If you think on this it becomes much more a virtue to be humble in this way! This was for the greater good of all humanity, so it seems very small if we should but hold our tongues and passions during our time of distress. Jesus was all powerful, yet allowed this to take place.
Part of humility is humiliation and the other part is the virtue of temperate behavior.