Rick Warren (quotation is usually misattributed to C.S. Lewis) has a somewhat different take on humility. He states,
"Humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less."
When I first read this quotation a couple of years ago, I was less than impressed. You see, from where I was coming, that would make humility nothing less than selflessness and then we didn't need another name to describe the same virtue.
But as time past, my perspective changed, and now I find this definition of humility to be the accurate one. You see, while we use the expression, "thinking of yourself" to express someone with a selfish tendency to not care about others, Warren is referring to something different when he uses that expression in his clever quotation.
To learn what, we will ask examine what the opposite of pride really is. Pride we all know to be the evil to which humility fights. Pride and arrogance are the tenets of man's feelings that make them think they just don't need any help from anybody, and that everyone else is inferior and not worthy to be spoken to.
Or that's what it can mean in extreme circumstances. Arrogance can also just come off in a little urge to prove yourself right, never admit to being wrong, and not accepting any reproof that you are given.
At its core, pride is just an overconfidence in one's own self. A time where yes, we are focusing upon our own abilities, and not those of the Lord or anyone else. Whether we experience this overconfidence in a small way or an extreme way, we know for sure that pride has significant consequences. The Bible admonishes us in Proverbs 16:18,
"Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall."
Pride clearly involves thinking too highly of oneself, and since humility is the virtue that is portrayed as exactly opposite this, we ought to assume that it involves thinking lowly of oneself and his abilities.
This is indeed fair. Humility does involve thinking lowly of one's own abilities, but that's hardly the end of the story. Simply thinking less of yourself will more than likely bring you into a state of insecurity than a state of humility.
Now you are not likely to think there's any real difference between humility and insecurity. To my understanding, humility is comfortable with the amount of talent one doesn't possess, whereas insecurity is not secure or peaceful about his lack of ability and is thus trying to build himself up.
The easiest way for an insecure person to feel built up is simply to bring others down. In my experience with debate, I found the teams that were elite would have good things to say to and about novices. They would see promise in these novices that perhaps the novices hadn't noticed in themselves.
The teams that wanted to be considered elite - that were close to that status, but just couldn't quite get there - always seemed to be willing to brag about how much they crushed the same novices that the elite teams were just praising. These teams would be willing to hurl insults at how "novicey" these teams were without a hint of compassion in their voices.
You see, insecurity taught them the best way to build themselves up was to bring others down, to condemn them and to treat them in an arrogant way. Thus, insecurity is a precursor to prideful actions. Yet an insecure person definitely thinks less of himself than a typical arrogant person, how could he also be proud?
I guess it's easier to acknowledge the Nebuchadnezzar from Daniel 4, who puts his power above that of God, than to see the one who not being comfortable with his own power, starts to comfort himself by showing those who are weaker than himself, those who have even less power than he does. But they are still in essence looking to their power above God's.
My life since high school began has been one ginormous cycle. First I would be incredibly arrogant and trust in my abilities to work out particular situations. Then when my abilities completely failed me, I would be simply finding myself completely lacking in my abilities and became uncomfortable with how many abilities I lacked. Until I tore other people down enough in my mind to see that I truly wasn't that bad. And on and on it went.
Finally, I realized what my ultimate problem was. When I forced myself into thinking about my flaws and weaknesses, I never found comfort within them, and was still thinking about myself too much. In both situations, I was still proud and hadn't found true humility.
Because you see, Rick Warren is right. True humility isn't just about knowing you're not the best person who walked the earth. True humility isn't just about acknowledging your own weaknesses. True humility is not just about thinking less of yourself.
Indeed, true humility is about knowing who the best person who walked the earth is. True humility is acknowledging that your weaknesses mean nothing in comparison to His strength. True humility is thinking of yourself less and God more.
Living a humble life is about being comfortable with your own weakness because you truly believe the words of 2 Corinthians 12:9,
"And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me."