From early childhood, we start receiving mixed messages about both humility and pride.
We are told not to be boastful, but encouraged to be the best and to speak our truth boldly. We are celebrated when we win and chastised when we lose. The message is clear: be the best and think of yourself as the best but just don’t say it out loud.
The typical religious response pushes us to the other extreme. We associate kindness with passivity. Being quiet, silencing ourselves, as the mark of humility. You must kill off all that is you in favor of those around you.
The result is a complicated game that never feels very genuine. We are trying to seem humble while searching for our best. We’re constantly trying to silence ourselves, the pride bubbling up around the edges in surprising forms like insecurity and over-aggression.
We’re taught on all fronts to repress who we are – either how we truly feel or the true version of our selves. It doesn’t have to be this way. Pride and humility are not opposite ends of a spectrum. They are two sides of a coin.
Pride’s Many Forms
Haughtiness comes in many forms. It comes in aggressive bragging, inflated (inaccurate) selfishness, and ‘thinking more highly of ourselves than we ought’. It also takes another, more subtle form.
Haughtiness can come in silencing our self, hoarding the gifts and talents we possess, and denying our responsibility. In an effort to be safe (why we are afraid), we hoard the best we have to offer a communal society. We hush it so as not to expose ourselves, putting us at risk.
This latter tendency is the mask of false-humility. The kind that throws away any sense of self in fear of making too much of the self.
Humility is simply seeing things as they truly are. Honor (in the sense of pride or glory) is not a poison to be avoided. We just need to approach it with accuracy. It needs to be grounded in truth or the whole pursuit will be out of whack.
It is a slippery slope because as soon as we hear this, we can pervert it into an excuse to be haughty, but it doesn’t have to be one or the other. There is a middle ground.
Too often we neuter our passions, muffle our calling, and silence our character because we are afraid of pride. We want to look humble rather than be humble. Shying from the calling on our lives and the part we have to play in the world is its own kind of blasphemy – stifling the true identity within us.
Humility is not about eradicating the self. It is about placing the self in proper context. It is about seeking the truth of who we are and acting in accordance with the truth. Pursuing truth is the noble act of humility.