Table of Contents

… Tough
You think you’ve got the stuff
You’re telling me and anyone
You’re hard enough
… You don’t have to put up a fight
You don’t have to always be right
… Listen to me now
I need to let you know
You don’t have to go it alone.

“Sometimes You Can’t Make It on Your Own” by U2 (2004)

If there were a soundtrack to my life, the song “Sometimes You Can’t Make It on Your Own” would certainly be on it. 

Early on in my life, I started trying to make my gnawing insecurities go away by showing off how much I could handle on my own. I measured my success and worth by how much I could do without help. 

Over and over again, this way of thinking has gotten me into trouble. It’s led to burnout, loneliness, anger, and feelings of great ineffectiveness. One of the lessons that I believe God has been trying to teach me for years is, in the words of Bono, “You don’t have to go it alone.” 

In the Bible, “not going it alone” means being humble:

Remember how the Eternal, your True God, led you through the wilderness these past 40 years. He did this to humble you, to test you, to uncover your motivations, to see if you would obey His commands. [3] He humbled you by making you hungry when there was no food in the desert. Then He fed you with manna, a food you and your ancestors had never heard of. He did this because He wanted you to understand that what makes you truly alive is not the bread you eat but following every word that comes from the mouth of the Eternal One.

Deuteronomy 8:2-3 Voice

The Israelites went through a “Humility 101” course in the wilderness for 40 years. They were completely unable to be self-sufficient; they had to rely on God for every basic need: food, water, shelter, and protection. 

What did God want them to understand from this time in the wilderness? That they would only be truly alive if they followed and obeyed him. In other words, they could not make it on their own. 

I often think of being humbled as being brought low and feeling bad. This passage teaches me something different: God doesn’t humble us to make us feel bad, but to help us stay connected to him. Choosing to be humble is respecting and acknowledging that we can’t make it on our own, and valuing the relationship God wants with us to helps “truly be alive.” 

Choosing to be humble will show in our relationships with people too. We won’t approach life as a lone ranger; we’ll value spending time with people, serving people, and working together with others instead of going it alone.

If you, like me, have a difficult time not going it alone, then you’ve come to the right place. What follows are five steps (with several sub-steps) that help me change the way I think about humility and embrace my need for God and other people. 

Step 1: Learn what humility means in the Bible 

He has told you, O man, what is good; And what does the LORD require of you Except to be just, and to love [and to diligently practice] kindness (compassion), And to walk humbly with your God [setting aside any overblown sense of importance or self-righteousness]?

Micah 6:8 AMP 

What is humility, exactly?

Here’s a definition I like: 

Humility: having or showing a modest or low estimate of one’s own importance.

When talking about humility in a biblical and spiritual context, we can use this definition to say that humility is setting aside any overblown sense of how important I am compared to how important God is. This matches what the Bible tells us in Micah 6.

I tend to struggle with a lot of insecurity, self-doubt, and low self-esteem, so I don’t always recognize that I have an overblown sense of my own importance, but I do. It shows itself in some sneaky ways:

  1. I think things won’t get done right without me. I take control at work and home, feeling like I need to be involved to ensure everything goes perfectly. This goes hand-in-hand with self-righteousness; unless I am involved with all my wisdom, perfection, and high standards, I don’t trust that things will get done right.
  2. I think things will fall apart without me. If something’s going on at work or I’m planning something with friends, I need to constantly check my texts to make sure I didn’t miss anything … because, well, I just think I’m that important.
  3. I think my actions are more important than my prayers. I feel compelled to complete my to-do list instead of spending quality time with God.
  4. I make things about me even when they’re not. Someone else succeeds? I’m a failure. Someone’s sad? Must be my fault. 
  5. I have an overblown sense of how much people are thinking about me. I overthink my interactions with people, when they have likely moved on.
  6. I can’t say no. If I don’t do it, who will? 
  7. I get overly stressed because I think I can do things that only God can do—like change someone’s mind, have superhuman strength, understand every problem, and handle life perfectly, without sinning or making any mistakes.

Do you recognize any of these signs or symptoms of self-importance in your life? 

When we live this way, we become so full of ourselves that we have no room for God:

In his pride the wicked man does not seek him; in all his thoughts there is no room for God.

Psalm 10:4 NIV

God says that walking humbly with him is one of the only things he wants from us. He doesn’t want us to perform flawlessly or impress him or others with how much we can handle.

Okay, so once you’ve identified some of your self-importance and pride, what do you do next? 

Step 2: Accept the wilderness as God’s classroom

Let’s revisit the first passage of the Bible we read:

Remember how the Eternal, your True God, led you through the wilderness these past 40 years. He did this to humble you, to test you, to uncover your motivations, to see if you would obey His commands. [3] He humbled you by making you hungry when there was no food in the desert. Then He fed you with manna, a food you and your ancestors had never heard of. He did this because He wanted you to understand that what makes you truly alive is not the bread you eat but following every word that comes from the mouth of the Eternal One.

Deuteronomy 8:2-3 Voice

God knows how to help us be humble. One of the ways he did it with the Israelites was leading them through a literal wilderness that tested and uncovered their true motivations. How would they respond when they didn’t get what they wanted right away? God always took care of them in this wilderness, but his care didn’t always look the way they expected.

Today, you and I probably aren’t wandering through a literal wilderness, but we do often go through an emotional and spiritual one: the wilderness of not getting what we want. 

2.1 The wilderness of not getting what we want

For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions. These are not from the Father, but are from this world.

1 John 2:16 NLT

1 John 2:16 gives us three big things we usually crave from the world around us, and our “wilderness” is probably a place where we can’t seem to find our way to one of these things. I find three possible wilderness areas in this scripture:

  1. The wilderness of being uncomfortable: Whether it’s emotional or physical, something in your life is causing discomfort. You crave physical pleasure and constantly find yourself looking for new places to get it.
  2. The wilderness of wanting more: You feel like if you just had [fill in the blank], you would be happy … but it eludes you. You tend to envy the things you see other people have. 
  3. The wilderness of not feeling successful: You want to rely on the pride of achieving things, but your efforts don’t seem to be working. You find yourself frustrated and obsessed with finding ways to get a “win.”

2.2 The wilderness is always worth it 

He gave you manna to eat in the wilderness, something your ancestors had never known, to humble and test you so that in the end it might go well with you.

Deuteronomy 8:16 NIV

In the end, none of these things we crave will really satisfy us on a deep level. God is always working for our good (Romans 8:28), so we know he wouldn’t let us walk through a wilderness for no reason. He knows the wilderness is worth it because learning to depend on him brings us something much better than fleeting pleasure, possessions, or pride.

Learning to be humble brings us closer to God and all the amazing things that come with our relationship with him—like protection, security, purpose, love, and so much more.

If we accept the wilderness as God’s classroom, we can learn to enjoy the lessons it teaches us. God always took care of the Israelites in the wilderness. He always gave them protection, provided for their needs, and guided them toward the promised land. Every test was an opportunity for them to learn to rely on him.

Read more: Trust The Process: How God Prepares Us For Our Destiny

Likewise, every limitation, every challenge, and every scary situation in our lives is an opportunity to trust God and develop a reliance on him that transcends all circumstances. In that sense, time in a “wilderness” can be really good. 

Pause and reflect

  • What “wilderness” do you think you have been walking through?
  • What has your “wilderness” been uncovering about your heart and trust in God?
  • How do you think this wilderness could help things go well with you in the long run?

Step 3: Walk humbly with God before trying with people

When pride comes [boiling up with an arrogant attitude of self-importance], then come dishonor and shame, But with the humble [the teachable who have been chiseled by trial and who have learned to walk humbly with God] there is wisdom and soundness of mind.

Proverbs 11:2 AMP

Have you ever felt yourself boiling up with defensiveness in a conversation with someone? Maybe you feel accused of doing something wrong or unappreciated for all the good things you have done?

That “boiling up” feeling often comes with pride. For me, it’s a way of trying to protect myself from painful feelings of dishonor and shame, and it usually happens when I am faced with a mistake, a point of constructive criticism, or an area I need to grow. 

Boiling up like this can cause problems in my relationships with people. They get scared of my reactions and hesitant to tell me what they really think. I get angry at my closest friends when they try to help me or tell me a needed truth.

I don’t like the way my pride affects my relationships, but I’ve found myself frustrated when I just try to force myself to be humble. Despite my best efforts to remain calm, my pride rears its ugly head immediately with people if I have not been humble in my relationship with God.

People are imperfect; it’s easy to find a way to defend ourselves against anything they try to say and to feel insecure that they’ll judge us for our imperfections. But when we are humble with God, we can trust that he is incredibly gracious and merciful. When we know God loves us, forgives us, and believes in us no matter what we do, we can be secure when a person points out something we might need to change. 

So what does walking humbly with God look like?

3.1. Humbly admit your need for mercy and grace 

“Two men went up into the temple [enclosure] to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. [11] The Pharisee stood [ostentatiously] and began praying to himself [in a self-righteous way, saying]: ‘God, I thank You that I am not like the rest of men-swindlers, unjust (dishonest), adulterers-or even like this tax collector. [12] I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.‘ [13] But the tax collector, standing at a distance, would not even raise his eyes toward heaven, but was striking his chest [in humility and repentance], saying, ‘God, be merciful and gracious to me, the [especially wicked] sinner [that I am]!’ [14] I tell you, this man went to his home justified [forgiven of the guilt of sin and placed in right standing with God] rather than the other man; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself [forsaking self-righteous pride] will be exalted.”

Luke 18:10-14 AMP

This is one of my favorite stories in the Bible. I relate so deeply to the Pharisee; I even know what it looks like to “pray to myself,” acting like I’m talking to God but only really talking to myself. Because of my deep insecurity, I want so badly to be loved and approved of, so I rely on my own good deeds to try to be right with God. 

The tax collector, on the other hand, recognized that he couldn’t rely on himself for righteousness with God or forgiveness. He was genuinely humble with God, recognizing his need for him. 

It’s hard to imagine that this tax collector would have boiled up with arrogance if someone pointed out his sins. He already knew he was “especially wicked,” and it doesn’t seem like he would have tried to deny it. He was aware that he wasn’t good or righteous, but that he needed God’s mercy and grace. 

We can follow in his footsteps by deciding to humble ourselves and forsake self-righteous pride in our relationship with God. Instead of doing good deeds to get God’s approval, we can admit the ways we sin and focus on our gratitude for God’s mercy and graciousness. 

Pause and reflect

  • What does it look like when I “boil up with an arrogant attitude”?
  • What practical step could I take to practice humility in my relationship with God today?

3.2. Humbly admit your need for God’s Word

When he sits on the throne as king, he must copy for himself this body of instruction on a scroll in the presence of the Levitical priests. [19] He must always keep that copy with him and read it daily as long as he lives. That way he will learn to fear the LORD his God by obeying all the terms of these instructions and decrees. [20] This regular reading will prevent him from becoming proud and acting as if he is above his fellow citizens. It will also prevent him from turning away from these commands in the smallest way. And it will ensure that he and his descendants will reign for many generations in Israel.

Deuteronomy 17:18-20 NLT

One of God’s instructions for a future king of Israel was to copy for himself God’s commands on a scroll. It doesn’t say that one of his servants should do it. It says the king must copy the words for himself.

When I think of being a king, I think of gloriously riding out to battle, winning victories, and enjoying the revered status as the highest leader of the land. It would be humbling as a king to slow down and copy God’s instructions. I think this is intentional, a reminder from God that no matter who we are, we need his Word.

God’s Word is powerful, and it’s important to God that we slow down and value it. The Bible shows us truth, like looking in the mirror or stepping on a scale. You can deceive yourself about your appearance if you avoid the things that show you what you really look like. 

No matter how hard we try, it will be hard to be humble without the daily influence of the Bible. This in itself is kind of humbling: I can’t even be humble without help! 

Post this at all the intersections, dear friends: Lead with your ears, follow up with your tongue, and let anger straggle along in the rear. God’s righteousness doesn’t grow from human anger. So throw all spoiled virtue and cancerous evil in the garbage. In simple humility, let our gardener, God, landscape you with the Word, making a salvation-garden of your life.

James 1:19-21 MSG

Humility is simple; it involves letting God change us by listening to his Word. Sometimes, my pride makes me think my spiritual issues are quite complicated and require deep theological study… when in reality, I just need to humble myself by listening to and obeying God’s Word.

Pause and reflect

  • How much do you respect the power of God’s Word to change your heart? 
  • What’s your attitude toward spending time reading God’s Word daily?

3.3. Humbly value God’s correction, discipline, and training

And have you forgotten his encouraging words spoken to you as his children? He said, “My child, don’t underestimate the value of the discipline and training of the Lord God, or get depressed when he has to correct you. [6] For the Lord’s training of your life is the evidence of his faithful love. And when he draws you to himself, it proves you are his delightful child.” [7] Fully embrace God’s correction as part of your training, for he is doing what any loving father does for his children. For who has ever heard of a child who never had to be corrected? 

Hebrews 12:5-7 TPT

One way we can practice walking humbly with God is learning to value the discipline, training, and correction he gives us —not endure it, or get depressed about it, but actually value it. 

When we value something, we make time for it, and we appreciate it. We can practice humility with God by reflecting on our attitude toward him when he trains and corrects us. Having a humble attitude toward God’s correction and training will greatly increase our humility toward correction and training from other people as well. 

Pause and reflect

  • Do you seek out spiritual discipline and training from the Bible and spiritual friends? Or do you avoid it?
  • What’s your attitude toward God’s correction and training? Do you value it? Or do you get depressed when he has to correct you?

3.4. Humbly set aside self-pity

Now that we have a better idea of what walking humbly with God looks like, let’s talk briefly about what humility with God is not.

Therefore, thus says the LORD [to Jeremiah], “If you repent [and give up this mistaken attitude of despair and self-pity], then I will restore you [to a state of inner peace] So that you may stand before Me [as My obedient representative].

Jeremiah 15:19 (AMP)

Sometimes we think that humility means beating ourselves up over our sins and wallowing in sorrow about how bad we are, but that’s not the case. The Bible tells us that humility brings a lot of good things into our lives:

The humble will see their God at work and be glad. Let all who seek God’s help be encouraged.

Psalm 69:32 NLT

The reward of humility [that is, having a realistic view of one’s importance] and the [reverent, worshipful] fear of the LORD Is riches, honor, and life.

Proverbs 22:4 AMP

An attitude of despair and self-pity means we are focused on ourselves and how sad we are that we might need help. It’s actually a sign of the sins of pride and selfishness, which is why God tells the prophet Jeremiah to repent.

Despair and self-pity might fool people around us into thinking we are deeply humble and sorry for our sins, but God sees through our attitudes. He knows whether we are humbling ourselves or feeling sorry for ourselves. 

Pause and reflect

  • What does it look like when you’re wallowing in self-pity? How is this different from genuine humility?

Step 4: Bring humility into your friendships

As we practice walking humbly with God, we’ll be more equipped to build humble friendships with others. Humble friendships are the best kind; they are full of affectionate love, kindness, sympathy, and support, so we never have to go through life alone. 

Now, this is the goal: to live in harmony with one another and demonstrate affectionate love, sympathy, and kindness toward other believers. Let humility describe who you are as you dearly love one another.

​​1 Peter 3:8 TPT

Without humility, we won’t be able to have the loving, kind, affectionate, harmonious relationships described in this verse. We’ll act like we don’t need each other or we have other things to do that are more important than connecting with one another. 

Demonstrating affectionate love is actually humble because it requires putting aside a sense of how important you and your time are in order to be there for someone else. We usually think of affection as physical, but we can demonstrate affectionate love in a number of other ways too. Let’s look at some ways we can bring humility into our friendships:

4.1. Spend time together

Spending time together is actually humble and it demonstrates our affectionate love for other people; anytime we invite someone over or get involved in someone else’s life, we’re saying we need them in our lives. Look at the example of the first Christians in Acts 2:

Daily they met together in the temple courts and in one another’s homes to celebrate communion. They shared meals together with joyful hearts and tender humility.

Acts 2:46 TPT 

I have to believe that without tender humility, these disciples would have thought their schedules were far too busy with more important things than sharing meals together. 

One of the most humbling ways I can love others is inviting myself into someone’s life, instead of pridefully waiting for them to reach out to me. Inviting myself in risks rejection, but it also communicates how important that person is to me and how much I value their friendship. 

4.2. Serve one another

Haughty and arrogant eyes and a proud heart, The lamp of the wicked [their self-centered pride], is sin [in the eyes of God].

Proverbs 21:4 (AMP)

Pride is inherently self-centered. It’s all about our own achievements, strength, and possessions. When we are full of pride, we will feel like we don’t have time to serve others. The reality is it’s not usually an issue of time but of our willingness to use our time to do tasks that seem lowly or unimportant. We usually feel like our time is too important to do seemingly menial tasks like cooking a meal, running an errand, or helping someone clean.

4.3. Say what you admire about each other

Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. [4] Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.

Philippians 2:3-4 NLT

Let nothing be done out of strife or conceit, but in humility let each esteem the other better than himself.

Philippians 2:3 MEV

Taking the time to think about the things you admire and respect about others is also a sign of humility. To do it, we have to stop thinking about ourselves and stop trying to prove ourselves long enough to recognize the value in other people.

Esteeming others helps us value their contributions to our lives, our families, and our jobs. Our pride makes us want to be impressive by handling everything ourselves, which usually leads to burnout. Being humble is recognizing that God didn’t design us to be a one-man or one-woman show. We work much better together than we do alone:

For in the same way that one body has so many different parts, each with different functions; [5] we, too—the many—are different parts that form one body in the Anointed One. Each one of us is joined with one another, and we become together what we could not be alone.

Romans 12:4-5 Voice

4.4. Sympathize, don’t criticize

So I, the prisoner for the Lord, appeal to you to live a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called [that is, to live a life that exhibits godly character, moral courage, personal integrity, and mature behavior-a life that expresses gratitude to God for your salvation], [2] with all humility [forsaking self-righteousness], and gentleness [maintaining self-control], with patience, bearing with one another in [unselfish] love.

Ephesians 4:1-2 AMP

Another sure sign of humility is reacting to others’ struggles with a desire to support instead of criticize. When we’re humble, we’re aware of our own weaknesses, so we can bear with one another sympathetically. We know how much we struggle, so we want to help people when they’re struggling instead of self-righteously criticizing them.

I usually know that I’m being self-righteous when I’m annoyed at the way people in my life are handling their struggles, instead of gently looking for ways to serve them. 

4.5. Seek out wisdom from one another

As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend.

Proverbs 27:17 NLT

It’s humble to admit we need sharpening from our friends. Asking someone for advice and help is also a way to make them feel loved because it shows we value and respect them. Plus, there are some pretty cool benefits to humbly receiving wise correction:

To humbly receive wise correction adorns your life with beauty and makes you a better person.

Proverbs 25:12 TPT

Pause and reflect

  • Which of the above ways is hardest for you to bring humility into your friendships? Why?
  • Which of the above ways would you like to start bringing humility into your friendships this week?

Step 5: Embrace the power of working as a team

Two are better than one because a good return comes when two work together.  If one of them falls, the other can help him up. But who will help the pitiful person who falls down alone?

Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 Voice

The final step in this course is to learn to embrace how powerful teamwork is. It may sound obvious or perhaps cliché, but if you’ve read to the end of an article about learning how to “not going it alone,” it’s probably hard to embrace that you need to be part of a team. 

A friend once shared with me a quote that is said to be an African proverb:

If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together.

To me, this echoes the sentiments of Ecclesiastes 4:9-10. We have a good return for our work when we work together with others. 

One way my pride manifests itself is in really wanting to be impressive, and working alone is a way I don’t have to share the glory of any achievements that may come. But over and over again, life teaches me that it’s better to work together. 

I’ve had some good friends in my life who have trained me to think that whenever I’m feeling stressed or overloaded, the solution is probably relationships. Though I still can resist, I now have a voice in my head that tells me “Ask for help!” whenever I feel in over my head. 

Not only does asking for help relieve my stress and give me help with carrying my burdens, the results are always better when I put my head together with others than when I am left to myself. 

Pause and reflect

  • How do you truly feel about working alone and about asking for help? Why?
  • What are some areas of your life in which you’ve been trying to go it alone? Who could you ask for help in those areas of your life?

I hope these steps (and the steps within the steps) help change the way you think about going it alone. Life is much better when we accept that it’s a team sport! We all need help from God and other people in our lives, and these Bible passages about humility can be helpful ones to return to anytime we’re struggling to accept our limitations. 

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This article was created by a member of the Deep Spirituality editorial team.

Deep Spirituality logo

This article was created by a member of the Deep Spirituality editorial team.

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Humility 101: A Beginner’s Guide to Not Going It Alone 6