Humility—A Help in Time of Adversity
HUMILITY, or lowliness of mind, is most fitting for human creatures. Even some worldly-wise men evidently appreciate that fact.
Thus Sir Isaac Newton, one of the greatest scientists among men, stated: “If I have seen farther, it was by standing on the shoulders of giants.” Similarly, the late Dr. Otto Hahn, who first discovered that the atom could be split, said in his autobiography: “In looking back over my long life, I realize that my scientific career was due in large measure to a series of lucky accidents.”
Not only is humility fitting, it has everything to recommend it. Most importantly, it can help to put us in the right relationship with Jehovah God, for we read: “God opposes the haughty ones, but he gives undeserved kindness to the humble ones.” (Jas. 4:6) Humility also makes for our own peace of mind and contentment. And it helps us in our relations with our fellowmen.
Furthermore, humility is especially helpful when we are being tried by adversity. Family problems, economic hard times and severe counsel may be hard to face. Adversity may also take the form of opposition one meets while engaged in the Christian ministry, or of severe persecution. It may include being wronged by a seeming friend. As we shall see, humility will help us to endure.
HUMILITY HELPS IN THE FAMILY CIRCLE
There is no question about it; adversity often is found within the family circle. How many marriages are unhappy! How many men desert their families because of one kind of adversity or another! How many couples seek a divorce for like reasons! Humility will enable one to put up with adversity and often will help to remove its very causes.
Certainly humility is needed on the part of the husband and father. It will enable him to see his own faults, as well as those of his family. Thus he will be in position to compensate for their shortcomings, applying the principle that ‘the strong are to bear the burdens of the weak.’ (Rom. 15:1) Humility enables him to have empathy, to see things as others in his family do. It helps him to keep the lines of communication open between himself and his family, making it easy for them to express themselves, thus avoiding misunderstandings, which are a frequent problem in family life. True, he may know more about a given matter than they do, but he recognizes that he is in a better position to help his family if he really knows what is on the mind of each one.
Some modern wives at times evince a lack of respect for their husband’s headship; they may be independent and self-willed. For example, they may make major purchases without first consulting their husbands, the breadwinners. Similarly, many children are self-willed and not as respectful as they should be. Being humble, recognizing that he too has shortcomings, will enable the family head to be calm and long-suffering when members of his family try his patience. He will not talk loudly or shout to dominate them but will give any needed correction in a kind, firm way.—2 Tim. 2:24.
Humility also causes the family head to take his family into consideration before making major decisions that involve them. He will be ready to ask for suggestions (even a youngster may at times come up with a good idea!) and will give such suggestions due weight. Humility enables him to reflect on what a great blessing his wife and children are. It also helps him to be ready to admit mistakes; it makes him willing to do menial tasks that need to be done. Humility helps him to be “tenderly compassionate, freely forgiving.”—Eph. 4:32.
As for the wife and children, submission may be quite difficult at times, because family heads are imperfect like everyone else; they too make mistakes. But humility will make submission easier. Remember it is God’s Word that counsels wives and children: ‘Let wives be in subjection to their husbands in everything.’ “Children, be obedient to your parents in everything, for this is well-pleasing in the Lord.”—Eph. 5:24; Col. 3:20.
Differences are bound to arise within the family circle. Men and women look at things differently, and so do the younger and the older generations. Humility will help all to endure the stresses and tensions that result from these differences as well as those due to human imperfection. In fact, it will help to eliminate many of them.
HUMILITY AIDS IN FINANCIAL ADVERSITY
Then again, humility is a great help when financial adversity strikes. Due to any number of reasons a person may lose his job; or he may lose his home and all his possessions, as in the case of a hurricane. Humility can be a great help at such times. It causes a person to think, not just of himself, but of others in a similar plight, and to offer them aid and encouragement. At such a time humility will help one to be content with having less in a material way. It will help one to make the best of circumstances, being thankful, in the case of a storm, that life has been spared.
The person who is truly humble will not think that society owes him the best of everything, so that he feels unhappy and frustrated if he does not have what others have, or so that he will steal. (Prov. 30:7, 8) No, he will be sincerely thankful that he has food to put on his table, even though it may be plain, and that he has clothing to wear, even though it may not be of the best material or in the latest fashion. Having food and covering, he will, as the Bible counsels, be content.—1 Tim. 6:8.
HUMILITY AIDS WHEN BEING COUNSELED
Humility is also of great help when one is being counseled or reproved. The proud person resents counsel; by his actions he implies that he never makes a mistake. As a result, when he is counseled he may lose his temper, ‘explode’ or ‘go to pieces.’ In any event, he just makes matters worse. The humble person readily accepts counsel and correction, for he knows he could well have made a mistake. That is why God’s Word admonishes: “If the spirit of a ruler should mount up against you, do not leave your own place, for calmness itself allays great sins.”—Eccl. 10:4.
Counsel and reproof, when accepted humbly, bring great benefits, for “reproofs of discipline are the way of life.” (Prov. 6:23) Humbly responding to such discipline helps one to avoid calamity now and it helps one to walk in the way that brings God’s approval and so leads to eternal life.—Prov. 12:28.
HUMILITY IN THE FIELD MINISTRY
When meeting up with adversity while one is engaged in the Christian ministry, humility can also be a great aid. It will help a person to heed Jesus’ counsel: “Do not resist him that is wicked; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other also to him.” Should you, as a Christian witness of Jehovah, be standing on a street corner offering Bible literature to passersby, and some of these make disparaging remarks, slapping you in the face as it were, it will safeguard you against replying in kind. Instead, you will ‘turn the other cheek.’ Thus by showing kindness, mildness and gentleness you will be conquering the evil with the good instead of being conquered by the evil.—Matt. 5:39; Rom. 12:21.
Or, when you go from house to house, if you are dismissed by someone who says he is too busy, you will not hasten to judge him adversely. Humility will help you to appreciate that at times you too may be busy when others call at your door. If the householder appears to be cross, humility will help you to realize that it could be due to his own circumstances, and so you will not take it as anything personal. Humility will also keep you from feeling you must have the last word in a discussion or that you must be able to answer every objection that a householder may raise. You have a wonderful message to deliver, and you are glad to share it with those who will listen. If people ask questions to which you do not have the answers, you can humbly offer to find the information and call again if they are sincerely interested.
But regardless of the reception you may receive, humility is most helpful when you are engaging in the Christian ministry, for it encourages you to try to understand the viewpoint of others and then to assist them. It enables you to do as did the apostle Paul, who wrote: “Though I am free from all persons, I have made myself the slave to all, that I may gain the most persons. . . . I have become all things to people of all sorts, that I might by all means save some. But I do all things for the sake of the good news, that I may become a sharer of it with others.” Yes, humility will enable you to meet people on their own level.—1 Cor. 9:19, 22, 23.
ADVERSITY FROM CHRISTIAN BROTHERS
At times adversity might come in the form of unchristian treatment on the part of one who professes to be a fellow believer. Then one may tend to become very angry and give vent to righteous indignation or even to let oneself be stumbled so as to drop out of the Christian congregation. But humility helps us to have the needed insight that will slow down our anger and so cause us to pass over the transgression. (Prov. 19:11) David of old set us a good example in this. Though hounded by King Saul, even his life being in danger, David did not let Saul’s attitude toward him make him bitter or vengeful. He humbly let Jehovah God take care of matters, and Jehovah in his due time did, giving David the kingship over Israel.
Yes, when we have been wronged, humility will help us to heed the inspired counsel: “Return evil for evil to no one. . . . Do not avenge yourselves, beloved, but yield place to the wrath.” In fact, when we but reflect we can see that it is presumptuous for us to want to punish those who may have wronged us. God is the judge. Humility will make us content to wait upon Jehovah to set matters straight.—Rom. 12:17, 19.
HUMILITY A HELP WHEN PERSECUTED
Humility is likewise a great aid to us when undergoing severe persecution. Such treatment often breaks down people or causes them to compromise or to throw their principles and scruples to the wind. In this regard the Christian witnesses of Jehovah have obtained a fine report time and time again. As noted by one eyewitness who was in the Nazi concentration camps: “Jehovah’s witnesses were like rocks in a sea of mud.”
For one thing, humility can keep us from rebelling against God, should he permit us to suffer in such a way. It will help us to endure it, appreciating the issue involved, namely, Can a creature keep integrity toward God in spite of all that Satan can do? Job suffered great adversity, both from conditions and from persons. His wife urged him, “Curse God and die.” But no, Job humbly took it all and in the end was vindicated by God himself. His example, as well as our knowledge of the issue involved, will help us to endure.—Job chapters 1, 2 and 42.
But, of course, the greatest example of all in this regard is Jesus Christ. He humbly accepted his Father’s will for him, left heavenly glory as the chief of all spirit creatures and came to earth to be a mere mortal human. And “more than that, when he found himself in fashion as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient as far as death, yes, death on a torture stake,” a most shameful and painful death. He did not take the attitude, “Who do you think I am to have to suffer like this!” No, by what he did he provided the greatest example of humility. He set the example for us.—Phil. 2:8.
How can we go about gaining this fine quality of humility? It does not come automatically. As with all other fine qualities, we must work at it. It will take time, so we must not become discouraged and think, What’s the use? There is use, even if it does take time and effort and we keep making mistakes.
First of all, we must have an earnest desire to be humble. We must keep reminding ourselves that only by being humble can we please Jehovah God. This is clearly shown at 1 Peter 5:5, where we read: “All of you gird yourselves with lowliness of mind toward one another, because God opposes the haughty ones, but he gives undeserved kindness to the humble ones.” And do we not need God’s undeserved kindness? Can we afford to have Jehovah God oppose us? By regularly reading God’s Word we will gain his mind on humility.—Matt. 18:4; 23:12; Jas. 4:6, 10; 1 Pet. 5:6.
Prayer is another great help. In fact, prayer of itself might be said to be an expression of humility, for we come to Jehovah God as beggars, as needy persons, conscious of our spiritual needs. (Matt. 5:3) And if we ask in faith and do our part, working at what we pray for, we will acquire this fine quality of humility. Jehovah gives liberally to all who ask, not only of his holy spirit and of wisdom, but also of other fine qualities, such as humility.—Luke 11:13; Jas. 1:5-7; Phil. 4:6.
Understanding, which has well been defined as having a proper appreciation of one’s relationship to Jehovah God, is still another great aid to cultivating humility. It means to appreciate that, as the Universal Sovereign and Supreme Lawgiver, he has the right to command us to obey. And not only that, but by reason of his omnipotence he can enforce his will and decrees. Compared with him, how small are we, how insignificant! Entire nations are in his sight as but a drop of water falling from an empty bucket! (Isa. 40:15) When we get this appreciation of matters we are acquiring understanding, but the biggest enemy to understanding is pride, or self-importance. So it is not without good reason that it is written: “With all that you acquire, acquire understanding.”—Prov. 4:7.
Nor to be overlooked is love, principled, unselfish love, as an aid to cultivating humility. “Love . . . does not brag, does not get puffed up.” Love manifests itself by causing one to be lowly of mind and to consider others as superior to oneself.—1 Cor. 13:4; Phil. 2:2, 3.
DAILY WORKING AT HUMILITY
For humility to be able to help us in time of adversity, we must exercise it in our everyday lives, in all we think, say and do. Humility means lowliness of mind, not having big ideas or ambitions, and not tending to look down on others. It means thinking like the apostle Paul, who spoke of himself as “a man less than the least of all holy ones,” and as “the least of the apostles.”—Eph. 3:8; 1 Cor. 15:9.
Humility should mark our conversation. Do we always want to talk about ourselves, how we feel about things, what we have accomplished or plan to do? Do we often speak critically of others? Humility causes one to want to direct attention to Jehovah God, his Word, his work and his wonderful qualities, and to talk about one’s fellow servants, in a favorable way.
Do we often find ourselves monopolizing the conversation? Humility moves one to give others the opportunity to speak. If others are slow to express themselves, humbly, tactfully and lovingly draw them out, to their own happiness and to your own upbuilding. There is more happiness in giving others the opportunity to talk than in doing all the talking yourself.—Acts 20:35.
Does humility characterize our actions? Humility keeps one from shoving others or always wanting to be first if one happens to be standing in line. It will help one to perform menial tasks such as doing chores around home or cleaning the Kingdom Hall. It seeks to serve others instead of expecting to be served. Remember the example of Jesus. He came, not to be served, but to serve others.—Matt. 20:28.
Truly, humility has ever so much to recommend it. It makes for peaceful relations with Jehovah our Maker. It makes for peace of mind. It makes for friendly relations with our fellows. And it is of great help when we most need help—in times of adversity.