It’s fascinating observing different talk show hosts. Some ask a question and just let the person talk. Others cut them off quickly, and kind of turn the question to being all about them. Despite having people on their show to interview, some don’t really listen. They seem to think they already have the answers. They don’t really seem to want to learn from the people they are interviewing. The best people at interviewing are those that listen. They let the person keep talking. When I was chatting to my sister about this she said, “Yes, and the ones who listen are actually the ones you want to talk to. They are the more interesting people!” Which is largely due to the fact that they are not so self-absorbed. When we listen to people it’s a sign of love, of wisdom, and shows that we’re teachable, and it’s a way we can become more humble.
7. Ask questions
This is closely related to the point above about listening to others. When we ask questions in a right attitude and manner it shows we recognize we don’t have all the answers, that maybe our preconceived ideas about something were in fact wrong. It can also show that we recognize the person’s authority over us (if that is the case) and we are submitting to them. It can show we assume trust in them. There are many varied and different situations in life when it would be good for us to ask questions, aren’t there?
If you’re not in the habit of asking questions, it might be embarrassing at first, but it becomes easier. For example, when you’re chatting with someone and they use a word you don’t know, ask them the definition. If you don’t understand other things they’re saying, ask them to clarify. It’s often our pride that stops us asking questions of clarification.
Ask questions of someone also because you assume they’re interesting to get to know. They have something worthwhile to say, whatever their age or background. They have something we can learn from, Christian or not. Ask questions of someone because they are created by God and it’s a sign of us recognizing their worth in God’s eyes and therefore our love for them.
There are many situations where we can ask questions of others that help us grow in humility, but one of the greatest ways is to ask God questions in prayer and when we read his word, the Bible.
8. Consider others before yourself
“Humility is not thinking less of yourself but thinking of yourself less.”7 Humility is not thinking that others are more godly or kind than you, more intelligent or nicer, better at cooking or cricket than you. They may be, they may not be. Humility is when you consider other people’s interests before your own, thinking what is best for the other person and acting on that. We’re being humble when we think of others before ourselves. You may have a greater status than someone. You may have authority over someone. You don’t pretend you don’t have authority over them, but you think of what will benefit the people under you. What do they need? What is best for them? It doesn’t mean you don’t look after yourself. When we don’t look after ourselves we soon can’t help anyone else.
John Stott was by many accounts a humble man, and so it’s no surprise this was said of him after he passed away:
When I was nineteen I attended a day conference in Newcastle at which John Stott was the speaker. When we arrived, the friend with whom I’d come went off to the toilet and I was left alone, feeling out of place. An older man came over and began talking to me, asking me about myself. After a few moments my friend returned and the man introduced himself, “Hello, I’m John Stott.” My jaw nearly hit the floor. I’d been speaking to the great John Stott without realizing it. That moment made a big impression on me. John—who was the only speaker that day—had seen an awkward looking teenager on his own and taken it upon himself to make him feel welcome. I met him a few times subsequently and he always remembered my name. The private John Stott was just as impressive as the public persona: gracious, humble, without affectation. I’m sure it was this humility that meant God could entrust him with the influence and success he received. It is hard to underestimate the impact he has had across the world.8
This blog post was originally published on ThinkTank, and has been edited and republished with the author’s permission.
1. John Stott, ‘Pride, Humility, and God’ in Alive to God, eds. JI Packer & Loren Wilkinson, InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, 1992, p, 119.↩
2. David Pao, Thanksgiving, Apollos, Leicester, 2002, p. 21.↩
3. Ibid., p. 37.↩
4. Michael Ramsey, The Christian Priest Today, Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, London, 1972, p. 80.↩
5. CJ Mahaney, Humility, Multnomah, Colorado Springs, 2005, p. 24.↩
6. Ibid., pp. 17-19.↩
7. Rick Warren, The Purpose Driven Life, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, 2012, p. 190.↩
This article originally appeared here.