Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less.
— C. S. Lewis
Jesus described himself as “gentle and humble in heart” (Matthew 11:28-30). Humility is not pretending we know nothing or parading our ignorance; it is remaining aware of the limits of what we know and acknowledging that our knowledge does not place us above others (Colossians 2:18, 23). Humility does not mean denying what we can achieve, whether through science or other means; it means seeing that our achievements take their place within God’s wisdom (James 3:13). Humility does not mean despising ourselves; it is focused on honoring others and not claiming too much for ourselves (Philippians 2:3). True humility is a sober and generous attitude of mind that values others and sees oneself realistically.
Such humility is deeply relevant to learning about faith and science. Conversations about faith and science can be derailed by an apathy that ignores the big questions that frame who we are and why we believe what we do. Discussions can also be derailed by a pride that claims to already know every answer, whether basing this on science or the Bible. Both apathy and pride avoid engaging with and honoring others. Humility allows us to hold to what we believe to be true while retaining an ability to listen, be surprised, and accept that we can learn from others.
Humility is related to gentleness (Matthew 11:29; 2 Corinthians 10:1; Colossians 3:12). Exercising humility keeps us from leaping to judgment when we encounter uncomfortable ideas. It keeps us from implying that anyone who does not share our views must be stupid or evil. It helps us remain in fellowship with others without needing to make them exactly like us. Humility keeps us open to the possibility that we need to change and grow, and that we have not yet grasped life in its fullness, or the world in its complexity.
One way we resist vulnerability is by focusing only on mastery. “Mastering” information makes us active, while the information is passive. Information can become one more thing we consume and collect, to see who has the most. This attitude can combine with an unconscious position of superiority, which in turn may leave us untouched by what we learn. Teaching that fosters humility seeks to make space for wonder, for listening, and for honestly acknowledging that we only know in part.
Do your classroom practices foster humility and the ability to listen, learn, and be honest about our limits? Explore how these FASTly activities seek to build a concern for humility into their design for teaching and learning: