A Journal Page of Pride
Review of "Learning Humility"

This Scribbled Page

I sit on my couch and flip through the pages of my clipboard. I’m looking for notes I took last month on a project.

Instead, I happen across a page of intense scribbles. It is my handwriting from a year ago. I hesitate to read my own words, but curiosity compels me.

I don’t like what I find. The written words are furious and biting and sharp.

Granted, they weren’t meant to be seen by any eyes except my own. That’s what journaling pages are for.

Would I intentionally invite anyone to read my personal journals? No way. They contain too much ugliness.

Yet in my year of exploring what it means to be human, it will also include exploring what it means to be humble.

And humility involves letting yourself be seen from many angles, not just from your preferred good side.

Learning Humility

I just finished reading my first book of the year. It’s called Learning Humility: A Year of Searching for a Vanishing Virtue by Richard Foster, one of my favorite influential authors I began reading decades ago.

His book reads like an open journal, compiled from pages of his real journal.

Despite being 80 years old, Foster is still on a path of exploring and learning. And of humility. Thus, he allows us to peek into his journal from his year spent studying and practicing the virtue of humility.

He begins with the “supreme touchstone” of Jesus, the ultimate example of humility. From there he ventures into classic Christian texts on humility. He also uses twelve virtues from the Lakota calendar to frame his year-long adventure into humility.

Early on, Foster discovers this:

“As I talk with people about the topic of humility and read about it and seek to practice it, I find a common misconception. It is this notion that if I am truly humble, I won’t know that I am humble. That is, self-knowledge of humility actually proves that we lack it.”

In other words, the myth is “if I think I’m humble, I’m not.” By believing it, Foster says we prevent ourselves from trying to become more humble.

But how can we overcome this roadblock to humility?

Foster says one simple way is this: pay attention to humility’s opposite—pride. Observe pride in ourselves and in others, not to judge it, but to sharpen our view of seeing how different pride looks compared to humility.

“Pride is always a distortion of who we are truly created to be. Humility is so very appealing when we see it in another person. Conversely, when we watch someone consumed with pride it feels unnatural, deformed, twisted.

“Humility is beautiful, whereas pride is ugly.”

Ultimately, Foster concludes, to find humility, don’t try to attain it directly. Follow the principle of indirection.

He suggests “we simply take up those things that, in God’s time and in God’s way, will lead us into the virtue of humility. An obvious example is the spiritual discipline of service.”

Participate with God in grace-filled work, developing “deep in our soul a right relationship with others and with God.”

Foster says he learned that humility made him more human, more genuinely accessible to other people.

This is a lesson of humility—and humanity—worth pursuing for me, too.

One More Page

I look back at my page of angry writing. I consider wadding it into a tight ball or cutting it into tiny pieces and throwing it all away.

Instead, I put the journal page back into the clipboard where I found it. Perhaps I’ll stumble upon it again another day, a witness to how prone I am to fall into my own pride.

But I want to add an extra page to it, an addendum for my future self to see for the next time I run across it.

I take a sticky note and write these four sentences on it from Richard Foster about humility:

  • Be brave enough to learn humility.
  • Be strong enough to learn humility.
  • Be courageous enough to learn humility.
  • Be compassionate enough to learn humility.

I put the sticky note on my journal page. And put it all back on my shelf for now.

Learning humility isn’t for wimps. By God’s grace, may I be brave, strong, courageous, compassionate—and human—enough to do it.

A Journal Page of Pride

I hope to be humble enough this year to share my journaling thoughts about being human in this space. I invite you to share with me your thoughts, book suggestions, article links, etc., too, about what it means to you to be human.

Which do you see more of: people being proud or people being humble? Share your thoughts in the comments.

my thanks to NetGalley + InterVarsity
Press for the review copy of this book

sharing at these linkups

13 thoughts on “A Journal Page of Pride
Review of "Learning Humility"

  1. Deborah Rutherford

    Lisa, this is a wonderful article and this book will be quite helpful. It is so important to look at our pride, to pray to be humble like Jesus. And I like the example here: “Follow the principle of indirection.

    He suggests “we simply take up those things that, in God’s time and in God’s way, will lead us into the virtue of humility. An obvious example is the spiritual discipline of service.”

  2. Martha J Orlando

    I see far too many people consumed by pride, Lisa, and as you said, it doesn’t make for a pretty picture. I’m sure hoping my word for the year will lead me down the path of humility. My word is “mindful.”

  3. Donna

    Lisa, thank you for your vulnerability in sharing your journal isn’t always warm and fuzzy thoughts and feelings. Neither is mine. But following the counseling principles I have learned, getting what’s “inside”, “outside” through any medium such as journaling is the road to healing. I think being brave enough to write those things out shows a desire to change and heal.
    I love your 2023 word, “human” and certainly appreciate all the thoughts here on humility, I sure need more of that gentle trait in my own life!
    The humblest people I know are also the most self-forgetful people I know. meaning simply that they are less focused on themselves on more focused-on others.
    That being said, I still think part of being “human” is being so, flaws and all. Kind of knowing we are after all a work in progress!

  4. Lynn D. Morrissey

    Wonderful post, and more later:


  5. Lynn D. Morrissey

    Lisa, I’m sure you know this, but just for the sake of discussion, the word human comes from the Latin humanus, meaning homo/man, and humble comes from the Latin, humus or humilis, meaning earth or ground. But in the Sanskrit their origins may be similar. So I got to thinking about how when one is humble, you are really low–you are on the ground, so to speak, bowed down before the Lord or others, though not doormat kind of low; and I also thought of how man was originally created from the dust (ground/earth). This would imply to me that humans are created to be humble. Anyway you can just put all that together, but I thought it was fairly interesting.
    I love the idea of sharing journal entries publicly in an effort to help others. My purpose statement is “encouraging transparency,” and certainly sharing the deepest unbosomings of my heart from my journal with others, is one way to do that. However, I only do that after much prayer and with a sense of God’s leading, and not so as to reveal a dirty laundry list of problems or grievances. One must be discerning; and in that public disclosure, one has to be extremely careful not to harm others in the process. You’ve read my book, so you know I include some actual journal excerpts. Not only are they honest, but they have the ring of truth because they were written at the time of my struggles or joy. I think it’s important for Christians to share who they really are (ala James 5), and while I certainly continue to mask in public, I don’t like to wear masks across my soul as a rule. I always bear in mind there is a time and a place for disclosure. I shall look forward to learning how the Lord teaches you to be human!

    1. David

      Good point about Adam (person, man) and “ground” (which TIL is feminine in Hebrew!). There are also qualities in English like “grounded” or “down to earth”, which might not be that different from “humble”.

  6. Joanne Viola

    When we see humility in other people, it is most beautiful. It is as if they truly are unaware of the way God works in and through them. They don’t see their importance but value those around them as more important. I have often wondered if the Lord, in His grace and mercy, keeps them “hidden” from their own eyes so they remain humble and able to be used even more greatly for His glory and honor, and to the blessing of many. Beautiful post and I’ll be thinking about humility today for sure!

  7. Jean Wise

    wow what a story – timely too – and sounds like a great read. I have the book – it is Renovares book club selection but haven’t begun it. He has been on a few podcasts about the book so I do want to start it soon. He sounds like a humble man – amazing he is still learning….us too.

  8. David

    Very nice review!

    Finding that page must have been a shock — it’s easy to spot other people being proud, not so easy to spot it when it rises up in oneself. I often think my insistence on finding my own path is a kind of pride — a refusal to submit —, but I don’t think I could be any other way. One definite sign of pride is when my inner voice takes on a kind of haughty tone when it tells me that “this time doesn’t count” or such-and-such a lapse was “perfectly understandable”. Forgiveness from the wrong side.

  9. Kym

    The highlights you share from the book are illuminating – and it makes sense to me that the best way to pursue humility is indirectly. Thank you for sharing your experience in seeing that old journal page – it can certainly be uncomfortable to see our own failings, but as you say, the journal is meant only for your own eyes and if you learn and grow from it, it’s worth the discomfort. Visiting from IMM#19

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