Zooming Out

Netsie Carlson | April 13, 2021

“He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them his way.” Psalms 25:9 NIV

I think everyone knows what humble means, being that it is a popular word, especially in Christian vocabulary. I decided to look it up because I was curious to read about the different meanings, synonyms, etc. Definition two in the Merriam-Webster dictionary caught my eye. It says that being humble is “reflecting, expressing, or offered in the spirit of deference or submission”. (Stay with me, I am going somewhere with this). The root of the word describes a type of “chosen lowness” not in relation to something else such as a job position or object association, i.e., “humble teacher, businessman”. Instead, it is a recognition of one’s positionality in relation to the bigger picture. It aligns with the feeling we have when we realize how small we are compared to the universe which seems to help us gain perspective and move forward. If you have not guessed already, the bigger picture is Jesus. Only through him can we gain that perspective and compass that directs us on the path designed for us. When we are wrapped up in our individual issues and are unable to zoom out, we end up making decisions that are not in our best interest and are egotistical. There is something to the idea of “zooming out” or “stepping in someone else’s shoes” that changes the way we approach life.

Notice in this verse that it says, “He guides the humble”, inferring that these people are already humble, this leads me to the second part of my findings in the dictionary. Humble can also be used as a verb, explained as to “discredit, degrade, demean” or more commonly “to humiliate” someone. I bring this up because “humbling” someone is an earthly action. I think it is important that the distinction in the verse shows that God does not do the humbling, we come to him having chosen to be humble. It is not a natural trait that just comes to us, we must learn it and look to Jesus for the way. Humility inherently rejects power and superiority just as Jesus does.

Now, this applies to all parts of life, and the way we show our humility towards Jesus and in Jesus is by practicing it every day towards his people. The root of the word literally means low, but not with the negative connotation that we have assigned to it in our hierarchical society. There is a higher action of respect that comes with positioning oneself as “low”. It is in the way that we love, respect, and treat others. It is choosing to lay down our self-serving perspectives to empathize and gain a different point of view. It means that for those in dominant positions in society to recognize their position as it relates to the bigger picture and the greater scheme of things. It is being self-aware and choosing to work through the obstacles that interfere with our ability to be led by Jesus. We can humble ourselves and ourselves only. Kind of harsh right? But that is what it comes to. By interpretation of the bible and the power of the Merriam-Webster dictionary, you should not be in the business of attempting to “humble others” because it is spiritually and grammatically incorrect and is by definition, humiliating others. We would not be trying to “humble” others if we were humble ourselves, and that is something that we all need to work on.