Today we are beginning the pet peeve section of my blog. Well, not really, but today’s topic is certainly one of my pet peeves! I believe that sometime in the last fifteen years the actual meaning of the word humble has been swallowed up and it has moved over into the false-modesty category. When you are elected to office, given a special award, or graduate from something you are being honoured. It is not possible for it to be humbling!
Don’t believe that people really say this? On election night in 2011, “What a great night,” Canadian Prime Minister Harper exclaimed as he addressed cheering supporters in Calgary. “And friends, I have to say it: A strong, stable, national, majority Conservative government. We are grateful, deeply honoured — in fact, humbled — by the decisive endorsement of so many Canadians. We shall be faithful to the trust that you have reposed in us,” (canada.com)
Rev. Dr Samuel Kobia’s acceptance speech following his election as new WCC general secretary 28 August 2003 included the following, “I want to say that for me, this is a very humbling affair. I am deeply humbled by this great honour of being elected the general secretary of the World Council of Churches.”
thefreedictionary.com posts the following definitions
adj. hum·bler, hum·blest
tr.v. hum·bled, hum·bling, hum·bles
I think the reason some people are using the word humble in their acceptance speeches is that they are made to feel “modest in spirit” by the win or honour. What they may be feeling is embarrassment or unworthiness which may sound the same, but if they really felt that way would they not then decline the honour? For many it is a way to insert false-modesty into their speech. Certainly nobody who spends millions of dollars and every waking minute of months of their time campaigning to win an election should feel that they deserve the job or we are in real trouble!
Let’s look at some examples of humbleness. The word humble can be found 25 times in the NRSV translation of the Bible. Moses tells Pharaoh (definitely not an humble person) to humble himself and let the Israelites go and then later speaking to those very people whom God saved tells them that they wandered in the desert for fourty years in order to humble them. (Exo 10:3, Deu 8:2, 16) We are frequently called upon to humble ourselves before God and over and over again it is noted that God hears the humble and does not forget the humble. In Proverbs 6:9 it says, “Better it is to be of an humble spirit with the lowly, than to divide the spoil with the proud.” Later, in the New Testament when it says that the humble will be lifted up it doesn’t mean that if you act humble you will get earthly attention and wealth, but to be truly lifted up into the presence of God.
If none of those examples give a clear picture of true humility, look at Jesus. God humbled himself to the point of being born as a helpless infant in a lambing shed along with the animals. He lived a simple life with his parents and an even simpler life as he traveled the countryside during his ministry. There were no fancy campaign busses (or white steeds), slogans or $100-a-plate fundraising dinners. He didn’t wear fancy clothing like the members of the Sanhedrin, and on the night of the Last Supper he knelt down and washed his disciples feet like a servant, and refused to let his followers fight to save him from arrest. In the next several days he allowed himself to be whipped and beaten, hung on a cross with common criminals, and to be defeated by death. This is humbled.
As we go to bed tonight, let’s pray that the Holy Spirit may enable us to be truly humble in our lives, that we might be lifted up by God.
The 25 uses of the word humble come from; Exo 10:3,Deu 8:2,Deu 8:16,Jdg 19:24,2 Ch 7:14,2,Ch 34:27,Job 22:29,Psa 9:12, Psa 10:12,Psa 10: 17,Psa 34:2,Psa 69:32,Pro 6:3,Pro 16″19,Pro 29:23,Isa 57:15,Jer 13:18,Mat 18:4,Mat 23:12,2 Co 12:21,Jas 4:6,Jas 4:10,1 Pe 5″5,1 Pe 5:6