The point of humility

I used to think of the Christian notion of humility as misplaced. It seemed like a good way to avoid responsibility.

Old idea: ‘humility’ is at best false modesty, at worst a way to avoid responsibility, and so tends to make people’s lives worse.

I think this is actually true in some (many?) cases. However, humility can also be very useful:

New idea: humility, as far as it is useful, is a proper understanding of one’s knowledge and ability to influence various things in the world.

That is to say, in reality, it is far easier to over-estimate our knowledge or power than to under-estimate it. In this sense, having a kind of ‘humility’ becomes useful. It’s not something to limit you, but to expand your ability to act, by accurately seeing where the current limits of your ability to influence a situation are. (Similarly, often when one gets frustrated, say, it’s because one thinks that one’s ability to control things extends beyond what it actually does.)

A further benefit of humility in this sense of┬áproper understanding of one’s knowledge and influence on various things in the world is that, in Christianity, this thought process can also remind us about God’s acting. God is much, much more powerful than any given human according to Christianity, and so it makes sense to ground oneself (conceptually) in God and align oneself with God’s will. It makes sense to align oneself because God, who is goodness, also wants what is good – abundance, joy, and so on – for us, according to Christianity.

Christianity also tends to emphasize free will, and so there is an interesting balancing act between free will (one can do something) and humility (proper understanding of one’s knowledge and ability to influence things). In a sense, though, they are complementary notions properly understood, but that deserves a separate post!

2 thoughts on “The point of humility

  1. Pingback: The point of free will | Making Sense of Christianity

  2. Pingback: What is primary in Christianity? | Making Sense of Christianity

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *