At every stage of our Christian development, and in every sphere of our Christian discipleship, pride is our greatest enemy and humility our greatest friend.1
1. Thank God often and always
Thankfulness stops pride growing. We can thank people for things that they do and who they are, and that’s important and encouraging for them. But we’re to thank God for that person, for the way he has worked in them. Thankfulness is a sign of a believer. “Ingratitude…[is] one of the distinguishing marks of non-believers”.2 If you’re struggling with feeling thankful to God at this time, try and think of just one thing each day to be thankful for. It might be that you have enough food, or the weather, or something that happened at Bible study. Thank God for one thing after someone has visited you, or you have visited them. Thank God for one thing in your friend or your child, or in your spouse, your church or your local community.
In the constant act of thanksgiving, the relationship with God is nurtured. Through thanksgiving, the gracious acts are remembered and the life of a person is thereby changed.3
God-centred thankfulness helps us grow in humility, as it stops pride growing.
2. Confess your sins regularly
Confession is a reality check as it reminds us who we are. Christian confession need not be overwhelming because the cross was sufficient for all our sins and we have been completely forgiven. It is at the cross that we understand most clearly that we are sinners, but it is also at the cross that we understand most clearly that we are deeply loved. When we confess we gain a deeper appreciation of grace and what we have been saved from. God’s forgiveness gives us peace and security, and therefore the freedom to grow in humility.
3. Be ready to accept humiliations
“They can hurt terribly, but they help you to be humble”.4 Humiliations can help us become more like Jesus, who was terribly humiliated. I’m not talking here of accepting domestic abuse. Not at all. I mean that we might fail at something, or we might get demoted at work. Be ready to accept humiliations, as we can learn a lot when we’re at the bottom of the pecking order—which for many of us is out of our comfort zone.
4. Don’t worry about status
Don’t try to connect with people to elevate yourself. Is that person going to make me look good? Having that job, will that make me look good? Having that house? That spouse? Don’t try to elevate yourself; rather, try to elevate others. Serve others. When people are speaking at our funeral, what do we want them to say about us? About our values? Will they testify that humility characterized our life? Will they say, “She had humility, she had what mattered”?5 People who are humble inspire trust and confidence in those around them, and therefore humility is key for leadership.6 Pride is anti-social behaviour, whereas when we’re humble, it’s best for others and best for us, as it’s who we were created and redeemed to be.
5. Have a sense of humour
I think this one is really key, and not often talked about. Laugh at yourself and others. You have to be serious about some things, but don’t take yourself too seriously. When we’re able to laugh at ourselves, we more quickly swallow our pride. It diffuses situations. It means we’re not trying to keep up a facade that we’re this person who has it altogether. It means we can more quickly admit we’re wrong. It means we’re more real. It means we’re more in tune with grace. It means we’re more in tune that other people will have similar struggles to us in the Christian walk. Being able to laugh at ourselves is really important. It can help prevent burnout. It helps us keep going in life and ministry.
6. Listen to others
Listening to others shows we’re willing to learn from them, that we want to learn from them, whether they’re adults or children, whatever the person’s background, Christian or not. The people that made the biggest impact on me when I was a child, outside of my immediate family, were an uncle and aunt. Each school holiday we use to go visit them on their farm. There were six kids in my family and 10 in theirs, so there was potential for much chaos! I was a very shy child but I always loved going to their home as I felt loved and welcomed, and the reason they made me feel like that was they made a point of asking me questions and they listened to me, and that made a lasting impression on me. When we feel listened to, we feel loved. And when we listen to others, it’s a sign of us loving them and an acknowledgement that we can learn from them. And it’s also recognition that God in his sovereignty and goodness has put this person in my life.