If you were asked what humility is, what would you say? Many people quote Rick Warren in saying that “humility is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less.” While that’s 100% true, there is another side of humility that most people never look at.
Humility isn’t just the recognition that the world doesn’t revolve around you, it’s actually the recognition that there is a specific “you-sized” portion of the universe that God has a purpose for and that person to fill it is you. It’s being content in God’s purpose for your life, regardless of how big or small that role ends up being.
This concept comes from the Hebrew word “anavah” which is the Old Testament word used for humility. In fact, the literal definition of anavah is to occupy your God-given space in the world—to not overestimate yourself or your abilities, but to not underestimate them either.
Another fascinating thing to learn is that the Hebrew word for “meek” is “anav“. If you’re thinking there is a connection between those two words, you would be correct. When Jesus says “blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the Earth” (Matthew 5:5), He is describing this very quality.
Pastor Dave Adamson describes it well when he says:
“Growing up, I was taught that humility was thinking less of yourself by taking up the smallest possible space. But anavah is about being aware of and comfortable with your place. When we do this, we don’t take up so much space that it squeezes others out, and we don’t take up so little space that our responsibilities fall to others. What if, just for today, you resolved to serve others by simply taking up the space God has given you to occupy? Nothing more, nothing less.”
So when it comes to our purpose, humility isn’t just the acknowledgement that we are here to serve other people, it’s a mindset of contentment knowing that God has given us what He has chosen to give us and to be okay with that. God has made us who we are and therefore we should have the confidence knowing that we don’t have to compare ourselves to anybody else because we are who God made us to be and that’s more than enough.
Dr. Henry Cloud puts it beautifully when he says, “humility is not having a need to be more than you are.”
Now this mindset certainly doesn’t deny the reality that God wants us to ask boldly of Him when we do ask Him for things, but it does place reassurance in our hearts that if God chooses to say no then we are to be 100% trusting that His answer is in our best interest. To fully embrace anavah is to recognize our unique calling, no matter how big or small, and step into it with full confidence and contentment that this is what God has made us for.