Navigation Close Menu X

Meditations on Humility: Humility and Confession

I have been on an interesting journey in my life, which has thus far lasted two years. The journey is into learning about humility. I’ve been a terrible student in most ways finding that each time I feel that I’m about to be humble in something and then become aware of it, humility is suddenly far away from me.

My journey in Christ has been 15 years at this writing in November of 2001. My willingness to give up on myself and trust Christ with my life didn’t happen until 12 years ago. I’ve only been aware for the past two years that I would permanently need the Lord Jesus to keep me secure, keep me soft, keep me sane and keep me alive.

People from my own church background haven’t written much about the topic of humility other than to say that we all need to be humble. We also don’t talk much about confession. I guess we prefer to think of confession as something reserved for sinners…and since we aren’t sinners any more (at least not too bad) then confession is something we give to the weak and we keep watch over them to make sure they do it right.

I’m becoming a student though. Confession isn’t just for the sinner. It is for all of us who yearn for connection. It is for all of us who yearn for a sense of community. It is for every man and every woman who, for just a moment, gets a glimpse into the shadow places of the heart and wish (Oh how we wish!) that we didn’t have this bothersome weakness inside. Confession requires humility. It requires humility because true confession must be able to acknowledge the strengths of our lives as well as our weakness. It must be able to reveal both the triumphs and the tragedy. God’s men and women were never designed to live passionless and fearful lives. Passion isn’t sinful when it moves out from a humble and fully confessed heart. There is room for dreamers and visionaries and success and ambition and personal growth and to still be truly humble. I am learning that humility will cause me to have an accurate picture of myself. It requires me to be REAL. Did I say “real”? I think THAT is the problem for most of us. It certainly is the problem for me. To be “real” is very costly. It puts my heart on the line every time. I had never thought of it before but then one day I realized that I had just as much fear of success as I did of failure. I realized that I felt just as insecure about actually telling others what I really thought and felt as I did when I just sat around wondering if it would ever be possible to ever tell people how I really feel and think. It was strange really. Whether I shared or whether I didn’t share, I was still uncertain that I wanted to take the risk of being “real.”

So, in a short season of fasting a prayer in the fall of 1999 I began my journey toward taking the risk. The initial few days of the fast were really quite boring. I went without food and entertainment AND without people and without the Bible and sat with myself and with God for a few days. It was just three short days later that I began to really know my heart. I realized my heart with full of a thousand small compromises…that I was living my life in a deficiency…that I was content to be barely keeping things together…that I was intimidated…I felt judgmental…angry…and, the basic analysis of my heart was that I felt completely alone.

That was just a beginning. It was in the second week of this time aside with God that I found some direction for myself. God was going to require me to learn humility. Phil 2:5-8 states that Jesus was the model for the attitudes I should carry and that He humbled himself. Matthew 11:29 invites us to take His yoke upon ourselves for He is gentle “and humble of heart.” Then I read Andrew Murray's little book called "Humility". I was so impacted that I thought I would never return again to a proud heart.

That was just the beginning of a journey that still is going on. I am learning humility and I am looking for men and women on the same journey. I invite you to discover biblical words that are synonymous with humility. Words like meek, lowly and gentle are a little bit foreign to us. You’ll discover treasures everywhere. Take time to think about what you read. Wow! What a journey this is so far! I know I have so far to go.

Following you’ll read just some of the amazing quotations I’ve run across in the past two years. They are included here because these statements have been teachers to me. I hope you enjoy these and the ones we’ll include another time.

“… there is one thing at least that the radical American bishop Jack Spong and I can agree about, and that is the need for humility! He writes: ‘God and God’s truth can only be served as we approach the awesome wonder and mystery of God with genuine humility.’ And, if we approach God with this humility, we end up inevitably gazing at Christ’s face from the foot of the Cross. The words of Max Warren, written some decades ago, still ring true today: ‘If the cross stands at the center of history as Christians believe, if it is the central key to understanding the nature of God, the dilemma of man, the mystery of life and death, then we have to expound its meaning as the way in which all men are meant to live and die.’”
George Carey - Archbishop of Canterbury – “Preaching Christ in a Broken World” – Amsterdam 2000

“Do not think of yourselves more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourselves with sober judgment.”
Romans 12:3

“He must increase, but I must decrease.”
John 3:30

“We can never be exalted to a life of blessing until we humble ourselves in total dependence on God.”
Stephen F. Olford - “The Evangelist’s Inner Life” - Amsterdam 2000

"Humility is the beauty of holiness"
Andrew Murray

“It is important; when we bring our sins into the open before God, not to stop there, but to go on to adopt a right attitude towards both God and the sin itself. First, we confess the sin, humbling ourselves with a contrite heart before God. Secondly, we forsake it, rejecting and repudiating it. This is a vital part of what is meant by 'mortification' in the New Testament. It is taking up towards sin an attitude of resolute antagonism. The uncovering of sin is in itself of little value; it must lead us to an attitude both of humility towards God and of hostility towards sin. 'Ye that love the Lord hate evil', or 'the Lord loves those who hate evil' (Ps. 97:10, AV and RSV; and it is this holy hatred of evil which is promoted by the faithful, systematic uncovering and confession of our sins.
John Stott – Confess Your Sins (London: Hodder and Stoughton; Waco: Word, 1964) p. 20.

Humility - "Acknowledging that achievement results from the investment of others in my life."
Character First!

“What doth it profit thee to enter into deep discussions concerning the Holy Trinity, if thou lack humility, and be thus displeasing to the Trinity? For verily it is not deep words that make a man holy and upright; it is a good life which maketh a man dear to God. I had rather feel contrition than be skillful in the definition thereof. If thou knewest the whole Bible, and the sayings of all the philosophers, what should this profit thee without the love and grace of God?”
Thomas A Kempis, Of the Imitation of Christ

“Don't be impressed by your own importance. Don't believe your press clippings. To maintain your perspective, work hard on humility.”
General Colin Powell

True humility recognizes our relationship to God and God's people. It helps us see ourselves as God knows us, with neither exaggerated self-approval nor unpardonable guilt.
Marilyn Christensen

“The vice I am talking about is Pride or Self-Conceit: and the virtue opposite to it, in Christian morals, is called Humility. You may remember, when I was talking about sexual morality, I warned you that the centre of Christian morals did not lie there. Well, now we have come to the centre. According to Christian teachers, the essential vice, the utmost evil, is Pride. Unchastity, greed, drunkenness, and all that, are mere flea-bites in comparison: it was through Pride that the devil became the devil: Pride leads to every other vice: it is the complete anti-God state of mind. “
C. S. Lewis

“Integrity, like humility, is a quality which vanishes the moment we are conscious of it ourselves.”
Madeline L’Engle

“There is a great difference between a lofty spirit and a right spirit. A lofty spirit excites admiration by its profoundness; but only a right spirit achieves salvation and happiness by its stability and integrity. Do not conform your ideas to those of the world. Scorn the "intellectual" as much as the world esteems it. What men consider intellectual is a certain facility to produce brilliant thoughts. Nothing is more vain. We make an idol of our intellect as a woman who believes herself beautiful worships her face. We take pride in our own thoughts. We must reject not only human cleverness, but also human prudence, which seem so important and so profitable. Then we may enter -- like little children, with candor and innocence of worldly ways -- into the simplicity of faith; and with humility and a horror of sin we may enter into the holy passion of the cross.”
Francois Fenelon, Meditations

"A quality by which a person considering his own defects has a lowly opinion of himself and willingly submits himself to God and to others for God's sake."

"A virtue by which a man knowing himself as he truly is, abases himself."
St. Bernard

"The virtue of humility consists in keeping oneself within one's own bounds, not reaching out to things above one, but submitting to one's superior."
St. Thomas

“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.”
Matthew 5:5

“Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”
Matthew 11:29

“Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”
Matthew 18:4

“Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.”
Ephesians 4:2

“Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.”
James 4:10

“All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”
1 Peter 5:5

“…the humble [one] receives praise the way a clean window takes the light of the sun. The truer and more intense the light is, the less you see of the glass.”

“True humility excludes self-consciousness, but false humility intensifies our awareness of ourselves to such a point that we are crippled, and can no longer make any movement or perform any action without putting to work a whole mechanism of apologies and formulas of self-accusation.”
Thomas Merton

“Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all everywhere should repent…”
Acts 17:30

“Self-hatred in the Christian is a substitute for humility. It belongs to pride. We are to repent of this focus on self, go to the Lord, listen to His words and grow into His image. We bring dysfunctional, sinful, prideful patterns in the thought life and imagination into submission to Christ. In listening prayer, every thought of the mind, every imagination of the heart, is brought captive to Christ. “
Leanne Payne

"To speak ill of others is a dishonest way of praising ourselves."
Will & Ariel Durant

“Humility, the place of entire dependence on God, is, from the very nature of things, the first duty and the highest virtue of the creature, and the root of every virtue.”
Andrew Murray

"…it is not sin that humbles us most, but grace."
Andrew Murray

"An opinionated person is an unbroken person."
Watchman Nee.

“It is the sinner dwelling in the full light of God’s holy, redeeming love, in the experience of that full indwelling of divine love, which comes through Christ and the Holy Spirit, who cannot but be humble. Not to be occupied with your sin, but to be occupied with God, brings deliverance from self.”
Andrew Murray

"Humility is measured by your willingness to allow others to see who you really are in your own weaknesses and in brokenness. Not what we would like for others to see."
Bill Bright

"… Knowledge makes arrogant, but love edifies. If anyone supposes that he knows anything, he has not yet known as he ought to know; but if anyone loves God, he is known by Him."
1 Corinthians 8:1-3, NAS

"Our measure of humility is not how humble we are before God, but is actually measured by our humility before man…”
Andrew Murray.

“Seek the LORD, all you humble of the earth who have carried out His ordinances; seek righteousness, seek humility. Perhaps you will be hidden in the day of the LORD'S anger.”
Zeph 2:3

“You younger men, likewise, be subject to your elders; and all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety upon Him, because He cares for you.”
1 Pet 5:5-7

“But He gives a greater grace. Therefore {it} says, "God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.”
James 4:6-8

“For thus says the high and exalted One who lives forever, whose name is Holy, "I dwell {on} a high and holy place, and {also} with the contrite and lowly of spirit in order to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite.”
Isa 57:15

Contrite means “crushed (literally powder, or figuratively, contrite)”

“For My hand made all these things, thus all these things came into being," declares the LORD. "But to this one I will look, to him who is humble and contrite of spirit, and who trembles at My word.”
Isa 66:2

“Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.”
James 5:16

“It is relatively easy to confess a sin compatible, as it were, with one’s dignity or ego self-respect, while the real sin lurks unrecognized underneath.”
M. Esther Harding, The I and the Not-I

What stops our confession? “Nevertheless many even of the authorities believed in him, but for fear of the Pharisees they did not confess it, lest they should be put out of the synagogue: for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.” John 12:42-43, RSV

Psalm 131:1-3 (NAS)
LORD, my heart is not proud, nor my eyes haughty;
nor do I involve myself in great matters, or in things too difficult for me.

Surely I have composed and quieted my soul;
like a weaned child {rests} against his mother,
My soul is like a weaned child within me.

Israel, hope in the LORD from this time forth and forever.

“We cannot stand the sight of our dark side, so we repress it, push it under, thinking we have thereby disposed of it. But we have not. We have simply pushed it into a place where it both has us in its grip and automatically projects itself on the person or the nation we do not like; so the tension we will not stand in ourselves is carelessly and irresponsibly cast out to increase the tension and strife and anguish of our world…Jung saw it as a psychological law that what we will not suffer inwardly through conscious recognition of our shadow, we will suffer outwardly as the result of our unconscious projections into the world around us. He thereby gives Christians the most awesome charge that they can possibly receive throughout their lives: the withdrawal of their projections upon others, and dealing with their shadow themselves. Here one almost senses the dimension of the ‘hellfire and brimstone’ preaching, once so characteristic of the church’s message. Has it faded out of church evangelism only to rise anew in the awesome heights and depths of the new psychology?”
Charles B. Hanna, The Face of the Deep

Psalm 32:1-11 (NAS)

How blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered!

How blessed is the man to whom the LORD does not impute iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit!

When I kept silent {about my sin} my body wasted away through my groaning all day long.

For day and night Thy hand was heavy upon me; My vitality was drained away {as} with the fever heat of summer. Selah.

I acknowledged my sin to Thee, and my iniquity I did not hide; I said, "I will confess my transgressions to the LORD"; and Thou didst forgive the guilt of my sin. Selah.

Therefore, let everyone who is godly pray to Thee in a time when Thou mayest be found; surely in a flood of great waters they shall not reach him.

Thou art my hiding place; Thou dost preserve me from trouble; Thou dost surround me with songs of deliverance. Selah.

I will instruct you and teach you in the way which you should go; I will counsel you with My eye upon you.

Do not be as the horse or as the mule which have no understanding, whose trappings include bit and bridle to hold them in check, {otherwise} they will not come near to you.

Many are the sorrows of the wicked; but he who trusts in the LORD, lovingkindness shall surround him.

Be glad in the LORD and rejoice, you righteous ones, and shout for joy, all you who are upright in heart.

“Humility is the foundation of all the other virtues hence; in the soul in which this virtue does not exist there cannot be any other virtue except in mere appearance.”
St. Augustine

“Envy is a symptom of lack of appreciation of our own uniqueness and self worth. Each of us has something to give that no one else has.”
Elizabeth O'Connor

“The Cross of Christ means nothing until it takes your breath away.”
Harold St. John

A little booked called Humility by Andrew Murray has impacted the life of Stephen Black and me. Here are some quotes that Stephen gleaned and said we could share.

  • “Humility, our place of entire dependence on God, is our participation in the life of Jesus; therefore it is our true nobility and our highest fulfillment.“
  • “Christ is the humility of God embodied in human nature, which redeems us from pride.”
  • “He was nothing that God might be all. It is through His life in us that we will see this same attitude born in us.”
  • “It is the secret of blessing, our salvation, true heavenly-mindedness, the primacy in the church, the only ladder to honor in God's kingdom, the most essential element of discipleship.”
  • “Christ's teachings and the disciples' efforts did not produce humility in them. Only after the Holy Spirit made them partakers of the indwelling Christ did they attain humility.”
  • “Our attitudes toward others reflect the reality (or lack of reality) of our attitudes toward God.”
  • “Humility is the bloom and beauty of holiness. If holiness lacks humility, it is merely self-righteousness.”
  • “Pride makes faith impossible. Humility is the disposition which prepares a soul for living on trust.”
  • “Only humility leads to perfect death. Only death perfects humility.”
  • “It is indeed blessed, the deep happiness of heaven, to be so free from self that whatever is said of us or done to us is lost and swallowed up in the thought that Jesus is all.”
  • “The lower, the emptier a man lies before God, the speedier and fuller will be the inflow of the divine glory. The exaltation that comes from humility is God giving more of Himself.”

The VICE OF PRIDE – THE OPPOSITE of Humility – HUMILITY the glory of the Creature - by Andrew Murray (page 10) in his book "Humility"

“Humility, the place of entire dependence on God, is, from the very nature of things, the first duty and the highest virtue of man. It is the root of every virtue. And so pride, or the loss of this humility, is the root of every sin and evil. (The lack of total dependency and a yielded life in God is unbelief). It was when the now fallen angels began to look upon themselves with self-satisfaction that they were led to disobedience and were cast down from the light of heaven into outer darkness. When the serpent breathed the poison of pride – the desire to be like God – into the hearts of our first parents, they too, fell from their high estate into all the wretchedness in which man is now sunk. In all heaven and earth, pride and self-exaltation are the gate and the curse of hell. (Note A) “All this is to make it know that PRIDE can degrade the highest angels into devils, and HUMILITY can raise fallen flesh and blood (MEN) to the thrones of angels. Thus, this is the great end of God raising a new creation out of a fallen kingdom of angels. For this reason, it stands in its state of war between the fire and pride of fallen angels, and the humility of the Lamb of God. It is here that the last trumpet may sound the great truth through the depths of eternity: that evil can have no beginning but from pride, and no end but from humility.
The truth is this – pride must die in you or nothing of heaven can live in you. Under the banner of the truth, give yourself up to the meek and humble spirit of HOLY JESUS.” (Understanding that no one can come to the Father unless HE draws them, and none of us can actually no Christ without a measure of at least the humility to come to Him and surrender) “Humility must sow the seed, or there can be no reaping in Heaven. Do not look at pride as only an unbecoming sin, nor at humility as only a decent virtue. The one is death, and the other is life; the one is all hellish, the other is all heavenly. “As much as you have of pride within you, so you have of the fallen angel alive in you ” (DEMONIC POWERS? – you want deliverance? We must have repentance and character building bringing lasting deliverance - humility). “As much as you have of true humility, so you have of the Lamb of God within you. If you could see what every stirring of pride does to your soul, you would beg of everything you meet to tear the viper from you, though with the loss of a hand or an eye. HOWEVER, IF you could see what a sweet, divine, transforming power there is in humility, how it expels the poison of your nature, and makes room for the Spirit of God to live in you, you would rather wish to be the footstool of all the world than lack the smallest degree of humility.” (these notes and parenthetical additions from Stephen Black's teaching on humility)

“Confession leads to change, just as self-observation leads to confession…One of the hidden reasons why we avoid the practice of confession may be so that we do not have to change. The paradox, however, is that the change we fear is also the change we want. We would like to keep our story secret, but we also yearn to share it…We each need someone who will ask us to give an account of ourselves, so that we can face into our lives and can confess who we really are.”
Elizabeth O’Connor, Search for Silence

“The crucible is for silver and the furnace for gold, and a man {is tested} by the praise accorded him.”
Prov 27:21, NAS

“Let another praise you, and not your own mouth; a stranger, and not your own lips.”
Prov 27:2, NAS

Humility is the most difficult of all virtues to achieve; nothing dies harder than the desire to think well of self.
T.S. Eliot

A fault which humbles a person is of more use to him or her than a good action which puffs him or her up.
Woodrow Wilson

Litany of humility
Lord, have mercy on us
Christ, have mercy on us
Lord, have mercy on us, Christ hear us
Christ, graciously hear us
God the Father of heaven, have mercy on us
God the Son, redeemer of the world, have mercy on us
God the Holy Spirit, have mercy on us
Holy Trinity, one God, have mercy on us
O Jesus, meek and humble of heart, make our hearts like yours

From the desire of being esteemed, Deliver me, o Jesus
From the desire of being loved, deliver me, o Jesus
From the desire of being honoured, deliver me, o Jesus
From the desire of being praised, deliver me, o Jesus

From the desire of being preferred, deliver me, o Jesus
From the desire of being consulted, deliver me, o Jesus
From the desire of being approved, deliver me, o Jesus
From the desire of being popular, deliver me, o Jesus

From the fear of being humiliated, deliver me, o Jesus
From the fear of being despised, deliver me, o Jesus
From the fear of suffering rebukes, deliver me, o Jesus
From the fear of being calumniated, deliver me, o Jesus

From the fear of being forgotten, deliver me, o Jesus
From the fear of being wronged, deliver me, o Jesus
From the fear of being ridiculed, deliver me, o Jesus
From the fear of being suspected, deliver me, o Jesus

That others may be loved more than I, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it
That others may be esteemed more than I, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it
that in the opinion of the world, other may increase and I may decrease, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it that others may be chosen and I set aside, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it

That others may be praised and I unnoticed, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it
that others may be preferred to me in everything, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it that others may become holier than I, provided that I may become as holy as I should, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it

Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, spare us, o Lord
Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, graciously hear us, o Lord
Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, Have mercy on us, o Lord

Let us pray

O Lord Jesus Christ, who said: ask and you shall receive, seek and you shall find, knock and it shall be opened unto you, grant we beseech you to us Your supplicants the gift of your most divine love that we may love you with our whole hearts and in all our words and works and never cease from praising you.

O Lord, give us a perpetual fear as well as love of your Holy name, for you never cease to govern those you founded upon the solidity of Your love. Who lives and reigns world without end. Amen.

Credited to Mother Teresa of Calcutta – More likely to be Rafael Cardinal Merry del Val (1865-1930) Secretary of State of Pope Saint Pius X

From Litany of Penitence, The Book of Common Prayer, p 269

We confess to you, Lord, all our past unfaithfulness: the pride, hypocrisy, and impatience of our lives,

We confess to you, Lord.

Our self-indulgent appetites and ways, and our exploitation of other people,

We confess to you, Lord.

Our anger at our own frustration, and our envy of those more fortunate than ourselves,

We confess to you, Lord.

Our intemperate love of worldly goods and comforts, and our dishonesty in daily life and work,

We confess to you, Lord.

Our negligence in prayer and worship, and our failure to commend the faith that is in us,

We confess to you, Lord.

Accept our repentance, Lord, for the wrongs we have done: for our blindness to human need and suffering, and our indifference to injustice and cruelty,

Accept our repentance, Lord.

For all false judgments, for uncharitable thoughts toward our neighbors, and for our prejudice and contempt toward those who differ from us,

Accept our repentance, Lord.

For our waste and pollution of your creation, and our lack of concern for those who come after us,

Accept our repentance, Lord.

Restore us, good Lord, and let your anger depart from us;
Favorably hear us, for your mercy is great.

Accomplish in us the work of your salvation,
That we may show forth your glory in the world.

Laura Leign Stanlake is the Director of Women's Ministries at First Stone Ministries