Does anyone ever humble themselves?

RoastedTomatoes recent post on Times and Seasons (look here) reminds me of a point that I have been making in my class, but which I am not sure results in actual doctrine. As always, when faced with the possibility of having taught false doctrine in my class, I turn to the faceless opinions of the internet for correction.

RT cites Alma 32:13-16 wherein a dichotomy is established between those who are compelled to be humble and those who humble themselves. I have a notion that God is primarily speaking rhetorically when he brings up the second group.

I don’t believe that humans are particularly good at humbling themselves. I do believe that this is why we have such things as sin, poverty, cancer, paper cuts, etc. Although some acts may constitute a minor humbling of oneself (baptism comes to mind), I don’t know that humanity (as presently constituted) is actually capable of it. While it is the sort of thing that is possible on paper (or, in the case of Christ, in reality), it doesn’t work out in the vast majority of our real lives.

Things that are truly humbling in the sense that they cause us to turn to God are humiliating. Serious degenerative disease that causes a person to rely on others for bathing or the removal of bodily waste. The impotence of parents when they are unable to protect their children. The shame of being caught by loved ones or civil authorities in the midst of an addiction. These are the sorts of things that really put someone in a crisis of faith.

People who believe that they humbled themselves by accepting a church calling believed beneath them or by accepting a deserved scolding are, to my mind, simply puffing up their pride. There is the oft repeated joke in church wherein someone proclaims their own humility. There are people who wear their “humility” on their sleeve, demanding our appreciation of their meekness.

God demands that we be humble. In the comments to RT’s post, someone pointed out Ether 12:27 which we frequently read for the end, while forgetting the beginning. We are weak because God needs us to be humble. If we are humble, God will make us strong. But he won’t make us proud. Only we do that.

11 Replies to “Does anyone ever humble themselves?”

  1. I should also add that it appears that the Zoramites believed that, in order to establish that one was chosen, one really had to stand on the Rameumpton and pray. The poor Zoramites were very much concerned with their eternal salvation when they approached Alma. According to Zoramite belief, they appear to have been condemned to hell.

  2. John,

    My brother and I have often looked the other way when being tempted to compare the Rameumptom with (some) testimony meetings.

    I know folks who are capable of humbling themselves quite well without compulsory means, but these cases are so rare, that they’re overlooked with great facility. But by and large, I think you’re right.

  3. Alma says that he suspects that some of the people he is addressing would have humbled themselves no matter what. I won’t contradict him but I do think that there are (for everyone) things that we humble ourselves on and things where we are humbled. The latter usually attack our blind (pride) side and, as such, are much more humiliating (in my opinion).

  4. I think “compelled” is being read a bit strongly here. It is impossible to be “forced” to be humble. If humility is the volitional direction of the will, then the fact that it’s freely chosen is a prerequisite for it being humility in the first place.

    So I suppose my answer to the question is that not only do people humble themselves, but people are never humble except that they humble themselves.

  5. Eric, excellent point. I agree with you (I would probably go further and say that this is the one legitimate use of agency that we have). That said, circumstances are often such that they can influence our decision to humble ourselves and God isn’t against providing us with those circumstances.

  6. I think that Eric and John are right.

    I think we do have to humble ourselves. We are often slow to humble ourselves, and the Lord provides us an oppurtunity. An event where one person feels humbled, could make someone else become prideful. A death in the family for example. One person will be humbled and realize that the Lord is in charge and He knows what’s best. Another person will get angry with God etc.

  7. I usually define humility as being teachable. Some people are more teachable than others. Some are very teachable in certain areas but not in others.

    I was recently re-reading President Benson’s 1989 talk on pride. He covers stuff in there that I never considered grouped under pride before. It’s good to read that talk every so often. If you’re willing to be teachable. 🙂

  8. I think we humble ourselves either by willingly drawing to God and accepting the refining that comes with that, or unwittingly, by relying on our own resources (which ultimately end up being pretty profitless without God). It’s not so much that God compels us to be humble, but that reality does.

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