Haughty is a great word. You can almost picture a person with an aristocratic nose stuck high in the air. I have to admit, sometimes haughty people amuse me. Donald Trump is one of my favorites. Everything he has is always the best and he is always the smartest person he knows. Most of the time I am looking at whatever he is so prideful of and thinking “That is the most hideous thing I have ever seen.” Yet, he persists in thinking everyone is envious of him.
In Raising a Humble Child, the Donald Trumps of the world have consequences of which they probably aren’t even aware. Frankly, I suspect the arrogant Donald Trump is in some ways a character he plays. On the other hand, he does have a path of broken marriages and bankruptcies in his past. Most of the time arrogant people don’t do nearly as well in life as they could have had they been humble. Their arrogance keeps them from learning from others wiser than them. Especially God.
Pride is discussed a lot in the Bible. It is almost always attached to stern warnings of the consequences. God knows our pride will keep us from truly giving Him the top spot in our lives. He realizes prideful people will make a lot of mistakes – generic and sinful ones. When they refuse to learn from others, they will be forced to make and learn from their own mistakes. Those with a haughty spirit won’t be serving with the empathy God requires or have a heart passionate for saving souls – after all, who wants people like “that” in Heaven, too?
So what are some ways to raise a humble child? There are probably a lot of things you can do, but here are some of my favorites.
- Share Bible stories with your children of prideful people and the consequences they faced. The Bible is full of these stories. Absalom is a story that appeals to children because of the visual of that long, beautiful head of hair (and getting caught in the tree by it in the end!). Ask your children what consequences the person suffered because of their pride. If they had been humble how would they have acted differently? How might that more humble behavior have changed the story? It is important for your kids to begin to understand pride has negative consequences and what those may be. Hopefully your kids won’t get their hair hung in a tree, but they will suffer consequences if they aren’t humble.
- Remind your children almost everyone they ever meet has something to teach them. I have learned from some of the most unlikely people you can imagine. The information is different, but I always learn something from everyone I possibly can. A great exercise in humility is to ask your children after they have met somebody, “What new thing did you learn from him/her?” Encourage your kids to ask thoughtful questions when someone mentions something about which they know very little. Having the attitude of a learner will go a long way to killing a prideful spirit.
- Teach children the difference between knowledge and wisdom. Our world is obsessed with knowledge. Google can make anyone think they are an expert in anything. Give me a few minutes with my computer and then I am ready to do your brain surgery! If your children are bright and tech savvy, they are very vulnerable to this deceptive builder of pride. Remind them the information they find may or may not actually be correct. Sometimes that one tiny, tiny error can be fatal. Your child needs to understand he does not have the knowledge base, life experience or wisdom to catch that potential error. Wisdom is the ability to filter knowledge and make godly decisions based on it. It is living out knowledge in godly ways. It takes practice, prayer and study. God values wisdom more than knowledge. Your child should value knowledge, but she should value wisdom even more.
- Give your children lots of opportunities to do humble chores, jobs and service. Clear the table after a messy meal enough and your children may be more humble in how they leave things for the person who cleans tables at restaurants. Make enough beds in one day and your child may begin to appreciate the housekeepers in motels a little more. Cooking a few meals from scratch for your family may help your child be more humble about what Mom or Dad serves for meals. Your child should not grow up thinking they are “above” any job. First it will almost guarantee they will work hard when times are tough. It also teaches them the same servant attitude Jesus displayed when he washed the feet of the Apostles.
- Remind your children of the proper order of priorities in life. This one is tricky, because if you struggle with humility and putting God and then your family first, it will be difficult for your child to learn this lesson. Ultimately pride is about always being first, best, the center of attention. That place belongs to God. If your child does not put God in that place, they are not truly humble.
- Encourage your child to allow others to be the center of attention. This is probably toughest for the younger children. Ever witnessed a fit from a child losing a board game and you know what I mean. This may be particularly hard if your child is an only child. You may have to make special efforts so your world does not constantly center around your child. In our house, we made sure everyone got a turn to have things “their way” or got to be the center of attention. When we went on mission trips to the children’s home, our then very young daughter was told our hugs and attention would be on the child our family sponsored more than her while we were there. Our daughter was responsible for making sure she not only didn’t demand special attention from us, but that she too made efforts to help the other child feel special and loved.
- Teach your children they don’t have to be a doormat to be humble and being humble doesn’t make them a doormat. The world gets this wrong a lot. If I choose to serve my husband breakfast in bed every day (don’t worry it doesn’t happen that often!), I am letting him take advantage of me. Sound familiar? Your children should be taught humble behaviors like giving up their seats for others, listening respectfully to their elders (even and especially if they know they are wrong), holding open doors, picking up after themselves, etc. All that litter you see is evidence of people who are so prideful they think their need to be rid of their trash immediately is more important the any other need anyone else might have to not see their trash thrown by the side of the road. Considerate behaviors are often humble behaviors because they depend in part on one person thinking of what the other person needs more than they think of themselves.
Learning humility is a lifelong task. As someone once said, the minute we think we have tackled humility, we are once again proud. Doing some intentional humility training of your kids will help them be humble enough to put God in the place He deserves and serve others and share their faith the way God asks of us.