The peace of humility

A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones.

Proverbs 14:30

A humble heart is at peace, full of life, and free from envy. I don't think it would have been clear to me before that this verse is speaking of humility, but it seems clear now. 

I remember what it was like to not be at peace. I remember what it was like to look at the success of others and find misery there. I remember the stench of death that comes with anxiety and envy.

Humility is the opposite. You have no need to be anxious. Your heart can rest and be at peace. You can look at the success and happiness of others and find joy there. The scent of freshness and life on every part of your life. 

How do you move from misery to humility? One thing you can do is choose thankfulness over envy. What else does it involve? In my own experience, humility felt so much like a gift that it's difficult to think about it as something that can be accomplished. Still, perhaps I can describe what it is like, and how it feels different than pride.

To begin, it's much more pleasant than pride. In the moments and seasons that I am proud, I am miserable. I am so much happier in the moments and seasons that I am humble.

There are many different aspects to this, and it's difficult to pull them apart and address them individually, but for now I'll focus on how pride brings anxiety and striving, and humility brings peace and rest.

I think the heart of this is a matter of identity. When we are proud, we want to create our own identity. We work to build it up. We must defend it against those who will inevitably attack it. If we don't create it, we won't have it. If we don't build it up, it will decay. If we don't defend it, it will be destroyed. 

This is the cause of the anxiety and the striving. For me, this was why my art being spoken ill of, or more commonly being ignored, had such weighty emotional consequences. It meant that the identity I was building was failing. I had to fix that somehow, but all I could was work harder and worry about it.

If I was honest with myself, I knew I was in fact powerless. We have no control over what other people do, or what they think about us. Skill, effort, rhetoric, charm can make us feel like we have power, and indeed it would not be fair to say they have no effect, but they are not the complete story. 

People work hard and still fail. Sometimes skill is not enough. Even the most persuasive rhetoric can fail to convince. You cannot count on them working like a formula. As much as we wish we could count on them, they are not reliable. The opinions of the word are fickle, we know. 

Humility takes a different approach. Instead of trying to create an identity, we accept the identity God has given us. He has given us an identity as his sons and daughters who are so precious to him that he sent Jesus to rescue us. He has spoken a word of love and value over us, and that word truly does define us. 

When we are humble, we accept that we are precious because God says that we are. We accept his estimation of our value. We do not have to work at all to build this identity. It is already complete. We do not have to defend it at all, because God will defend it. People can attack it, but they cannot destroy it. We need do nothing but remember the truth and rest in God's defense.

The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe.

Proverbs 18:10

This is the cause of the peace and the rest. This is why we can go about our lives at peace, even if others are attacking us or ignoring us. It is still true that we have no power of what other people will do or say, but we are not at the mercy of their opinions and whims any more.

Nor are we at the mercy of the fickleness and injustice of the world. The identity and value that God gives to us is always available to us, and it is always the same.

Perhaps this all sounds theoretical, but I am not speaking merely of theory. I have experienced both the anxiety and striving of my own proud heart, and I have experienced the peace and rest of humility that God so generously gave to me. These things are real to me. There is a depth of reality to them that is beyond most other experiences of my life. I invite you to experience it for yourself.