The intention in my blogs this year as we explore how to teach our children Godly character is not to cover an exhaustive list of traits, but to focus on a few and provide practical strategies to help teach our children to love both God and man. Here we will focus on a trait impossible to recognize in ourselves. Necessarily a quiet virtue, only others can identify it for us. I’m referring to Humility. Proverbs offers gold nuggets on the importance of humility. Proverbs 11:2 offers a warning. “When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with the humble is wisdom.” Proverbs 27:2 is particularly helpful for our children. “Let another praise you, and not your own mouth; a stranger, and not your own lips.” It’s natural for children to boast about their accomplishments, so teaching humility requires intentionality, reflection, and patience.
C.J. Mahaney writes in his book, Humility: True Greatness, “Humility is honestly assessing ourselves in light of God’s holiness and our sinfulness.” Honestly assessing ourselves is difficult, which is why we need candid input from friends and family to give insight on our own weaknesses. It’s even more important that our children receive honest, tactful input in the areas on which they can focus.
Here are some tips to help develop in our children the virtue of humility:
- Teach your children to complement others – Proverbs 18:21 says, that, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue.” Humility is best cultivated where words of specific encouragement are liberally used, and words of criticism, cynicism, and anger are avoided. Teach your children to look for ways to encourage and build up friends and siblings. This will point them to humility.
- Watch who your children admire – Ask your children, “Whom do you admire? Why?” We tend to emulate those we admire. Sadly, when we target athletes or entertainers as our objects of admiration, we will often be disappointed in their lack of humility and their tendency to gloat in their own greatness. Highlight people who can serve as role models of greatness and humility. Point to family members, missionaries, or people in your church who model humility.
- Teach your children how to speak about their successes – It’s hard to love a braggart. When your child is asked about his soccer game, he might respond with, “I scored two goals!” Instead of focusing on individual accomplishments, teach him to answer the question (“Our team won 5-1”) to take the emphasis off himself. We don’t want our children to lie, nor to develop a false humility, but they can learn how to receive praise and speak in a way that isn’t boastful. As we teach our children to “boast in the Lord,” they can learn to acknowledge that all gifts and accomplishments are by God’s grace.
John Stott wrote, “At every stage of our Christian development and in every sphere of our Christian discipleship, pride is the greatest enemy and humility our greatest friend.” As we seek to model this for our children, may God grant us grace to faithfully exhibit humility. Writes Mahaney, “Contrary to popular belief, it’s not ‘those who help themselves’ whom God helps; it’s those who humble themselves.”