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Humility and ‘the fruit of the Spirit’

Today’s contributor brings out the importance of humility and what it has to do with expressing and understanding God.

I was moved to read in a recent editorial in The Christian Science Monitor that to German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, humility is the most important quality in life. The editorial noted her Christian faith, which she describes as her “inner compass.” And it added that “she draws people together by gentleness, or what might be called sweet and tender reason” (“Gentleness as a German export,” March 5, 2018).

Such qualities, wherever found ­­– whether in leaders or in the rest of us – fit right within a description of “the fruit of the Spirit” found in the Bible. A letter to the Galatians attributed to the Apostle Paul says: “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance” (5:22, 23). As I’ve thought about these qualities, particularly meekness, I’ve come to understand that we express them more fully as we let our love for God inspire a greater unselfishness toward others. A love for God – good – leads away from a preoccupation with self and toward a natural joy in doing good for others.

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Christ Jesus considered humility to be highly important. During his ministry, he saw the need to nurture humility in his disciples when he discerned that they were concerned about who would be greatest. Jesus stated, “He that is greatest among you, let him be as the younger; and he that is chief, as he that doth serve” (Luke 22:26). Jesus understood that humility, not self-serving pride, is what constitutes greatness, which is expressed in wanting to serve, more than seeking to be served, and in one’s effort to be self-effacing rather than self-glorifying. He knew that this humble surrender of self is what leads to the perception of genuine goodness and peace.

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Like Jesus and Paul, Mary Baker Eddy, who founded this publication, is clear on the power and importance of humility. She says, “Human pride is human weakness. Self-knowledge, humility, and love are divine strength” (“Miscellaneous Writings 1883-1896,” p. 358). Humility not only grounds us in God’s strength but also gives us the ability to understand and express the goodness that is truly ours as God’s offspring. Humility teaches us that letting go of selfishness isn’t limiting but freeing, as it opens up our thought to the genuine joy of being and doing good. As God’s creation we can only reflect His goodness, manifest in all good qualities. Through my study of Christian Science, I have come to see that those good qualities, including humility, don’t have their origin in us personally, but in God, Spirit.

Recently I’ve been praying to recognize this reality for myself and to express it by striving for more humility in my interactions with others. This has opened my heart to being more willing to see things from others’ perspectives and learn from them, to be more deferential and less self-serving. A small but concrete example of my growth in humility took place when I was able to apologize freely and sincerely to an individual after I had taken particular actions in my own interest, rather than opening my heart to seeing things from their perspective, too.

Bottom line – I’m learning and continuing to grow in my understanding of humility every day. It’s something we can all do, as “the fruit of the Spirit” isn’t given to some and not others but inherently belongs to us all. When self-serving pride yields to humility, and selfishness yields to unselfishness, we more clearly see the goodness of God expressed in our individual lives, and we more readily perceive it in our neighbors’ as well.