Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves.
I was recently reflecting on this verse and the gravity of how difficult it is to live this out. It’s hard. I’ve been bombarded with messages to “hold my own” and “if you got it, flaunt it”. Confidence and self-assurance are admirable traits. I learned early on to accept compliments with grace instead of denying something flattering that someone says of me. So where does the humble line start? It probably starts earlier than many of us would care to think.
Counting everyone as better than yourself includes those who the world would quickly and easily identify as not better than you. There are unspoken cultural and social strata that are implicit in the daily goings-on of our world. For example, a drug-addicted criminal and I could stand side-by-side and no one would have to point out who’d be chosen for a job, as a friend, or even as someone to sit next to in a waiting room. But Christians are called to ignore what is called “normal” and forge our own path. This is really hard. It’s amazing to think that Jesus lived perfectly and never conformed to the social norms that I’m sure were just as common in his day.
The silver lining of assuming others are better than yourself is seeing the best in people and the positivity that that brings into your life. When I count someone ahead of myself, I give them the benefit of the doubt. If someone misses a deadline, I should assume they did their very best to make it and something must have prevented them. This becomes a silver lining in the hard choice to count others ahead of yourself. It removes the all-too-familiar feeling of brooding when someone does something (like missing a deadline) that inconveniently affects you.
This silver lining still isn’t easy to carry out all the time. Sometimes in the quick decisions/reactions of everyday life, I’m bound to forget to count others ahead of myself. I often fall into the mentality of “Well I would never do something like that,” or “I would never allow that to happen” or “I am way better and should have been chosen for that”. Thankfully, when this happens, we are free to seek God for forgiveness and confess our imperfections.