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A Checklist for Humility


As you can note from my reading list, I have included a book that is a compilation of men and women from antiquity who have written on the subject of spiritual formation. We have Richard Foster and James Bryan Smith to thank for sifting through thousands of pages to produce a work that I use in my daily readings.

I’m not one to simply recount the work of others, but when I came across the work of Jeremy Taylor (1613-1677) on the subject of humility, I found it too good to keep to myself. Taylor, in his book titled, The Rule and Exercises of Holy Living, shares twenty (20) points on humility.

  1. Do not think better of yourself because of any outward circumstance that happens to you.
  2. Humility does not consist in criticizing yourself, or wearing ragged clothes, or walking around submissively wherever you go. Humility consists of a realistic opinion of yourself.
  3. When you hold this opinion of yourself, be content that others think the same of you.
  4. Nurture a love to do good things in secret, concealed from the eyes of others, and therefore not highly esteemed because of them.
  5. Never be ashamed of your birth, of your parents, or your present employment, or the lowly status of any of them.
  6. Never say anything, directly or indirectly, that will provoke praise or elicit compliments from others.
  7. When you do receive praise for something you have done, take it indifferently and return it to God (or reflect it back to God).
  8. Make a good name for yourself by being a person of virtue and humility.
  9. Do not take pride in any praise given to you.
  10. Do not ask others about your faults with the intent or purpose to have others tell you of your good qualities.
  11. When you are slighted by someone, or feel undervalued, do not harbor any secret anger, supposing that you actually deserved praise or they neglected to praise you because of their own envy.
  12. Do not entertain any of the devil’s whispers of pride, which will only expose the heart’s true wishes.
  13. Take an active part in the praising of others, celebrating their good with delight.
  14. Be content when you see or hear that others are doing well in their jobs and with their income, even when you are not.
  15. Never compare yourself with others unless it be to advance your impression of them and lower your impression of yourself.
  16. The truly humble person will not only look admirably at the strengths of others, but will also look with great forgiveness upon the weaknesses of others.
  17. Do not constantly try to excuse all of your mistakes.
  18. Give God thanks for every weakness, fault, and imperfection you have.
  19. Do not expose others’ weaknesses in order to make them feel less able than you.
  20. Remember that what is most important to God is that we submit ourselves and all that we have to him.

Taylor concludes with this insight: “Humility begins as a gift from God, but it is increased as a habit we develop. That is, humility is increased by exercising it.”

Like me, you’ve probably thought of most of these at one time or another. I’m thankful Jeremy Taylor had the discipline to put all of them in a listing that can be used as a checklist for my personal progress.

“Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up on honor.” (James 4:10 NLT)

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