Recently I read a chapter on humility in my morning devotional. I have been reading the book, “Devotional Classics: Selected Readings for Individuals and Groups,” edited by Richard Foster and James Bryan Smith. Each chapter includes excerpts from the writings of Christians through the centuries. The chapter on humility by Jeremy Taylor really convicted me, and I thought I would share some of it with you.
Jeremy Taylor was born in England in 1613. He was ordained as an Anglican priest and became the chaplain to Charles I. Jeremy was jailed when England became a republic in 1649 and Charles I was executed. When the monarchy was restored in 1660, Jeremy became the bishop of Down and Connor.
I think a lot of people today have a problem with humility. We like it fine in other people but don’t have much of it ourselves. The chapter on humility by Jeremy Taylor helped me to see that this is not a new problem, but it is definitely something that I need to work on. Like so much of the Christian life, just when we think we are getting good at it, we don’t really have it at all. Because the Holy Spirit used his words to speak to me, I will share his words and stop my own.
From Jeremy Taylor’s “The Rules and Exercises of Holy Living”
The grace of humility is exercised in the following rules:
1. Do not think better of yourself because of any outward circumstance that happens to you. Although you may – because of the gifts that have been bestowed upon you – be better at something than someone else, know that it is for the benefit of others, not for yourself.
2. Humility does not consist in criticizing yourself, or wearing ragged clothes, or walking around submissively wherever you go. Humility consists in a realistic opinion of yourself, namely, that you are an unworthy person.
3. When you hold this opinion of yourself, be content that others think the same of you. If you realize that you are not wise, do not be angry if someone else should agree!
4. Be content to go without praise, never being troubled when someone has slighted or undervalued you. Remember, no one can undervalue you if you know that you are unworthy.
5. Never say anything, directly or indirectly, that will provoke praise or elicit compliments from others. Do not let your praise be the intended end of what you say.
6. When you do receive praise for something you have done, take it indifferently and return it to God. Reflect it back to God, the giver of the gift, the blesser of the action, the aid of the project.
7. Do not ask others your faults with the intent or purpose being to have others tell you of your good qualities. Some will speak lowly of themselves in order to make others give an account of their goodness. They are merely fishing for compliments.
8. When you are slighted by someone, or feel undervalued, do not harbor any secret anger, supposing that you actually deserved praise and that they overlooked your value.
9. Take an active part in the praising of others, entertaining their good with delight. In no way should you give in to the desire to disparage them, or lessen their praise, or make any objection. You should never think that hearing the good report of another in any way lessens your worth.
10. Do not constantly try to excuse all of your mistakes. If you have made a mistake, or an oversight, or an indiscretion, confess it plainly. If you are not guilty, do not be overly concerned to change everyone’s opinion about the matter. Learn to bear criticism patiently, knowing the harsh words of an enemy can be a greater motivator than the kind words of a friend.
11. Do not expose others’ weaknesses in order to make them feel less able than you. Neither should you think on your superior skill with any delight, or use it to set yourself above another person.
Humility begins as a gift from God, but it is increased as a habit we develop. That is, humility is increased by exercising it. Taken all together, these rules are good helps and instruments for the establishing and increasing of the grace of humility and the decreasing of pride.