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Humility: What it is, What it isn't

April 23, 2019

Humility is an increasingly underappreciated value in today’s culture. In a world where personal branding, hyperbole, and debate are highly visible, humility seems to be a forgotten art. In spite of this, there is something truly refreshing about being in the presence of somebody who is sincerely and genuinely humble.

Plant With Purpose holds humility as a high value. The humility displayed by so many of our international partners inspires us. Christ’s ultimate example of humility drives us. One lesson learned along the way is that in order to grow in humility, it’s important to understand what humility is and isn’t.

Humility is not mediocrity.

Eugene Cho writes “don’t mistake humility with mediocrity. In all things- small or large- do it with all your heart. Do it with beauty. Do it with integrity. And do it with joy and love. And be sure to give glory to Christ.”

If you are called to a task that God has placed on your heart, then the only proper response is to go at it with everything you’ve got. Patience is important when it comes to long term, sustainable work, but we should also not allow ourselves to be satisfied with mediocre results. Excellence and humility belong hand-in-hand and are complementary values.

Humility is serving a higher purpose.

Want to avoid mediocrity while staying humble? Don’t forget this mindset: your work is so much bigger than yourself.

God called us to participate in the restoration of the planet, no small undertaking. While any one person’s individual contribution may be small, it is also of extreme significance. Throughout his earthly ministry, Jesus took the time on several occasions to laud the contributions of “small” individuals who gave significantly despite their limited resources. A widow’s mite and a boy’s loaves and fishes are just two examples of how a God can make incredible use out of simple gifts.

The community marketplace in Fonds Verrettes

The community marketplace in Fonds Verrettes

Humility is not passivity.

There are many reasons that might lead a person to take a more passive approach to serving others. Maybe the challenge facing you requires boldness, calling for an act that might cost you in terms of resources or reputation. Maybe the challenge in front of you seems simply daunting. Or maybe the fear of failure stops you from getting started. Or maybe it simply seems like there are too many options, and you aren’t quite sure where to begin.

Humility is stewarding your resources.

A couple simple truths serve as helpful reminders when passivity becomes tempting.

  • I remember that I don't have unlimited time on Earth to fulfill my calling.
  • I remember that I’ve been given some incredible resources- financial provisions, good health, time, a beautiful ecosystem, and I’ll one day be accountable for what what I was entrusted with.

Suddenly, the question in front of me is less about how to avoid mistakes and is more about what I do with what I’ve been given.

Taylor & Estela in the Dominican Republic

Humility is not self-deprecation.

An old saying claims that humility isn’t talking less about yourself, but it’s talking about yourself less. It’s an important distinction to make. Constantly dismissing any praise, criticizing one’s self, or treating yourself as unimportant is not an act of humility. These are simply acts of self-deprecation that do not match the way God sees you.

You can be humble while also remembering the deep worth and value that God sees within you.

Humility is constant wonder.

Eating a great meal leaves you feeling satisfied. Getting a good night’s sleep leaves you feeling energized.

Likewise, spending some time in wonder leaves you humbled.

Whether you find yourself amazed by a crashing ocean, the first cries of a newborn, or the lyrics of an instantly timeless song, things that make us wonder remind us that our lives are both small and sacred.

Humility is one of our big values. We hope to make it a part of everything we do, from planting trees to training church leaders. To learn more about our work and how you can be a part of it, check out our Purpose Partner program!

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