All personal growth requires humility. Without humility, pride takes the wheel and aims for the ditch. History is littered with the pages of brilliant and talented men and women who were ultimately destroyed by their own pride.
Humility reveals our humanity. Let that idea really take hold in your mind. Humility reveals your humanity by keeping your failures and your successes in proper perspective to each other. Humility makes you teachable, a constant reminder of how much you need lifelong learning.
Abraham Lincoln, an avid reader and voracious learner, understood the importance of humility. When some editors were preparing a directory of congressmen, they asked Lincoln to submit his biography. He humbly wrote, “Education defective.” He was keenly aware that even though he had closed many of his personal growth gaps, humility was still the key to all future learning.
When we lack humility, our pride builds our knowledge into monuments of our own greatness. Although we can’t see it at the time, those monuments are actually barriers and roadblocks to our future learning. Humility, on the other hand, is like the gatekeeper to growth—and its gates are always open. If we begin to value what we’ve already learned over what we have yet to learn, those gates slam shut, sealed tight with the padlock of pride. Your current knowledge cannot be the permanent watermark for your future. Past learning does not guarantee future growth.
In the Beatitudes, Jesus was crystal clear about the importance of humility. Matthew 5 begins, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”(Matthew 5:3) Professor and author Bruce Winston (2002) observes:
“‘Poor in spirit’ is a state of being opposite of ‘rich in pride.’”
Winston says that we should not view ourselves as a full cup—something that cannot receive more—but rather as an empty cup, always willing to learn more from others. Humility reminds us just how empty our cup really is. Humility helps us remember that what filled our cup yesterday won’t continue to fill our cup today.
Humility calls us to increasingly depend on God, acknowledging that His infinite wisdom far surpasses our finite minds. Proverbs 1:7 captures it best:
“Start with God—the first step in learning is bowing down to God; only fools thumb their noses at such wisdom and learning” (MSG).
Bowing implies submission, respect, honor, reverence, and humility. Without this lifelong learning posture of the heart, we’ll enthrone our knowledge as an idol and turn God into our footstool. Humble yourself! Doing so will give you the attitude you need to grow for a lifetime and ultimately close your growth gaps. Is your posture bent toward humility? Or are you drowning in the glory of your own press release?
What’s the easiest way to cultivate humility? It’s simple: shut up! Seriously. We all like to talk about ourselves. The problem is, so does the person we’re talking to. When you put a verbal zip tie on your mouth, it might surprise you how much more people will enjoy hanging out with you.
Question: How does humility shape your personal growth journey?
This post was adapted from my book, GO! Starting a Personal Growth Revolution. You can order a copy in my store here or on Amazon or Kindle. GO! is also available from Barnes & Noble. For bulk orders, email me here.