More from Tim Keller’s book The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness, this time on true “gospel-humility.” He writes (emphasis mine):
C.S. Lewis in Mere Christianity makes a brilliant observation about gospel-humility at the very end of his chapter on pride. If we were to meet a truly humble person, Lewis says, we would never come away from meeting them thinking they were humble. They would not be always telling us they were a nobody (because a person who keeps saying they are a nobody is actually a self-obsessed person). The thing we would remember from meeting a truly gospel-humble person is how much they seemed to be totally interested in us. Because the essence of gospel-humility is not thinking more of myself or thinking less of myself, it is thinking of myself less.
Did you get that? Gospel-humility is thinking of myself less.
Not thinking all the time about how messed up I am. Not thinking all the time about how great I am.
Just thinking less about myself. Period.
I’ve come across believers who make a frequent fuss of how much they need to pursue humility, how others are so much more important than they are, how relatively ungifted they are, etc. And Keller’s observation rings true to my own sense of such people: rather than coming off as particularly humble, such individuals simply seem to have an overwrought sense of self-deprecation. Or an inferiority complex, which really is simply deflated pride. True gospel-humility doesn’t draw attention to self, but instead, to Christ or to others. I’m reminded of Philippians 2:3-4:
Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.
If I’m actually cultivating gospel-humility, I’m not really aware of it. Instead, I will simply experience a decreasing need to think about myself, and in place of that, the needs of others will carry an increasing and natural sense of significance to me. I won’t expend gobs of energy talking about how I’m not so great (any more than I would talk about how I am so great). Self will be forgotten. Or, as John the Baptist put it, “He must increase, and I must decrease” (John 3:30).
Can I just say, read/buy this short little book? Or download/listen to the sermon from Redeemer Church’s website. Excellent insights for gospel transformation.