Intellectual Humility

In chapel this semester, we have been talking about intellectual character and virtue. Intellectual character involves the thought process behind every decision we make.

We began with intellectual courage, which is the virtue that helps you to find truth and live out that truth. We then discussed intellectual honesty, which demonstrates how we use the truth we know. It is the link that goes from our thinking to our actions. We moved on to intellectual tenacity, which we defined as being very determined and persistent in seeking truth and knowledge. For the last few weeks, we discussed intellectual carefulness, which involves patience, diligence, and carefulness in the search for truth and knowledge.

This week we turn to another virtue, intellectual humility. People who have intellectual humility want to know the truth, so they constantly recognize that they, like all people, are sinful and capable of error. They are humble because they are aware that truth is none of their making, but is God-breathed.

Intellectually humble people value truth over being right. They are okay if they are wrong as long as there is truth being sought out. Intellectually humble students would not be mad at getting an answer wrong; they would be happy that they would have an opportunity to understand the real, truthful answer.

The problem we have as people is that we don’t like to be wrong. We always want to be right. Even when we are wrong, we don’t admit it, or we cheat to get the answer because we think truth is not as important as being right.  If we would rather be right, that means that we are not truly searching for truth. This also is a problem in life as a whole. Think about it–someone who thinks they’re the best at reading will not want to be taught by a teacher, because they are already the best. Someone who thinks they’re the best at basketball will not want to be coached by a coach, because they already think they are the best. But someone who is humble will admit they need help in reading and get help from those who know how to properly teach reading. Someone who is humble would admit they can get better at basketball, and would seek help from a coach that can help them be better.

I coach track, and I think I’m pretty good at coaching track. In fact I have helped the Annapolis track team win a state championship a few times. But when I had an opportunity to learn more about coaching track I did not say, “I know everything there is to know about track and I should be teaching other coaches.”  Instead, I said I need to know learn more about coaching track and I went to a conference to learn more about coaching track. I teach math, and when there’s an opportunity to learn how to teach math better, I want to be there!  I want to be able to teach math and science and PE better, and I want to be a better pastor. That is why I want to learn from others and seek help.

Intellectual humility leads to a teachable spirit that can help a student grow in knowledge and virtue and character.

1 Peter 5:6 says, “Humble yourselves, therefore under God’s mighty hand that He may lift you up in due time.”

When it comes to our faith in God through Jesus Christ, we need a humble heart to see how we are fallen and in need of a Savior. That is what Peter is saying here. He is saying that if we humble ourselves, God will lift us up. We need to understand that we can’t fix ourselves, we can’t save ourselves, we can’t lift ourselves. Only God can fix us, save us, and lift us in due time.

Intellectual humility can teach us how we can be humble in our whole life. So this is what I want you as students to do this week:

  • I want you to strive to do your best and get correct answers and learn how to work out math problems and other problems correctly.
  • But if you don’t get an answer right, I want you to really look for the truth.
  • I want you to ask questions.
  • I want you to get help from teachers and coaches and your parents and anyone else who can help you seek true answers.
  • I encourage you to admit if you are wrong, if you don’t know how to work out a problem, or if you need help.

As 1 Peter reminds us, if we start to see that we are in need, we start to see God is the One that fills our needs, that supplies are needs, and that takes care of our needs. The greatest truth we are to figure out in this world is that God is all we need.