Becoming Humble



1It’s been 20 years since I was diagnosed with ALS, and I’d like to share some of the lessons I’ve learned over these long and difficult years.

The strange thing about being taught lessons from difficult circumstances is that you have no idea that you’re being taught a lesson at the time. This was the case with my learning about humility. Unlike learning lessons from books or teachers, experiences, especially really difficult experiences, teach us lessons that we never forget. These lessons literally become a part of us.

“Experience: that most brutal of teachers. But you learn, my God do you learn.” – CS Lewis

I don’t remember giving it a lot of thought at the time, but I suppose that I considered myself to be a fairly humble guy before being diagnosed with ALS. I now know that I didn’t even understand what true humility was back then. I am still learning.

Like taking several different classes in school, trials teach us many lessons at the the same time. Some people call this “The school of hard knocks.” But the other lessons are much easier to learn if you first learn the lesson of humility. Humble people are teachable people.


My first lesson in humility.

It’s funny to think about now, but I fought so hard to keep from having to use a wheelchair back when I first began stumbling and falling. I vividly remember it taking me like fifteen minutes to walk into church using a walker. I never looked behind me as I was creeping along, but I now picture myself leading a long line of very patient churchgoers walking at my same tortoise-like pace. I’m sure they were asking themselves, why doesn’t this guy just use a wheelchair? (Mary was probably asking herself the same question as she walked alongside me).

I’d like to claim that my refusal to use a wheelchair for so long was me fighting against the ravages of this horrible disease. That was mostly true, but it was partly old-fashioned pride. There was a part of me, the worst part of me, that simply didn’t want to be viewed as a crippled person. (Like I was fooling anyone). I know that sounds shallow, but it’s the truth.

If you ever want to test your level of humility, go shopping at the mall in a wheelchair.

I was reading the Bible every day, going to church and doing all the things “good Christians” do; I had been a follower of Christ for many years, yet I still wasn’t truly humble. I now know that being humble, just like being proud, is a choice. Choosing to be humble is a choice that even the healthiest and wealthiest can and should make. Difficult trials force us to choose one or the other. (If humility wasn’t a choice, God wouldn’t have told us to “humble ourselves” as He does throughout the Bible).

Every Christian has a choice between being humble or being humbled” – Charles Spurgeon

Trials chip away at our pride like a sculptor chiseling away at a rough block of limestone. The difference between a block of stone and a human being is that the block of stone doesn’t have a freewill. The silent choices we make, especially when going through a difficult time, play a big part in determining what the Sculptor will make us into.

Fighting against the process of being humbled is a miserable way to live, especially when you’re dying.

I’m not saying that we should give in to the trial, that’s the last thing we should do. I refuse to allow ALS to take me down without a fight. As of last week I’ve been battling this monster for 20 years and, even though this disease has knocked me down (literally and figuratively) more times than I can count, I still choose not to give up.

Regardless of what our trial might be, we cannot fight alone. We need the help of others and we especially need God’s assistance. Whether it’s for salvation or coping with life’s many difficulties, God’s assistance comes in the form of His grace (favor, goodwill, loving-kindness…).

The Bible tells us that God (only) gives His grace to the humble (James 4:6). It’s not that He doesn’t want to give grace to the proud, it’s just that the proud refuse His grace. Pride is by definition self-reliance, an illusion that keeps God and others at a comfortable distance.

Whether or not you’re going through a difficult time right now, humble yourself and your humility combined with God’s grace, will help you in good times and bad.


About Bill Sweeney

In 1996, Bill was diagnosed with ALS (“Lou Gehrig’s Disease”) and the doctors told him he had 3-5 years to live. He is now completely paralyzed and unable to speak, but by God’s grace, he’s still alive and through his blog shares a message of hope in Christ - Unshakable Hope!

Posted on November 10, 2016, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 140 Comments.

  1. Humility is a noble virtue, charming, elegant and sober.
    Humility drawing us from the center of the stage, and hides us from being an easy target for predators, and for pride.

  2. Hi Bill, Are you doing OK? Is there something I could Pray for you?

  3. Excellent! Thank you for this!!! 👍🏻

  4. A thought-provoking post, which makes me consider going shopping in a wheelchair in a mall. I don’t frequent malls, but I like your suggestion. So would Diane! 🙂 Thanks for your visit today. It got me over here to see what you’re writing about. Well worth the visit, and as always, well timed for me.

  5. “If you ever want to test your level of humility, go shopping at the mall in a wheelchair.” I love this. You don’t realize how hard it is to get around in a wheelchair until you have experienced it or had a love one experience it! My son was placed in a wheelchair for a couple of months. It was so hard carrying a food tray at the hospital and pushing him around! It’s also hard getting through doors. Bless your heart and thank you for sharing such an uplifting message! ❤️​

  6. Hi! I nominated you for the Versatile blogger award!
    You deserve it.
    Please check the link for the rules:

  7. Wonderful words as always. Thank you.

  8. Very inspiring. I guess I don’t have the right to complain about all the hardship I am going through right now. You are truly blessed. God’s grace is sufficient for you. God used you in that way. Keep on writing. Continue inspiring more people like me. God bless you more.

    • Thank you, Mayette. You’re right, God’s grace is sufficient for all of our needs.

      • You are very much welcome. Lately, I had been through a lot and I am blaming God. But just realized, no matter what, I should be thankful for what I have, and not feel bitter for what I don’t have.

        • I’m sorry you’re going through difficulties, Mayette. Please don’t blame God for your troubles, He may have allowed it, but I believe it’s always to bring about a greater good – here on earth or for eternity. Just remember, never allow yourself to think otherwise, God is love and God is good. If that’s the only thing you can keep at the forefront of your mind in life’s many trials, it will be enough to get you through.

          • Yes, I won’t anymore. I realized my fault thru you and thru others who had been through hardship but still standing and praising God. Still faithful and thanking God for what they have. I am thanking God for because of you.

          • Thanks, Mayette. It’s easy to thank and praise God in the times of wealth and health, but we need to do that especially when we might not “feel” like doing so.

  9. What a journey and what a God. Thanks for sharing. Our hope truly is unshakeable. I choose humility.

  10. Wonderfully well done. I just received your gracious comments about my last blog and opened up to read this and thought they were very similar in theme! You and I have the honor and privilege to learn from our sufferings and use those sufferings to glorify God. As always, thank you for continuing to support and encourage me with your kind words and your inspiring blog posts.

    • Thank you, Terri. You and I have learned that it’s all about eternity, it’s been a tough lesson to learn, but I know that, like me, you are so glad that you learned this lesson.

  11. I was just thinking about you. And then you liked my post. And then I found this. You inspire me. Happy new year! Carpe Diem.

  12. Praying that Jesus makes himself more real to you than ever before my friend. Thinking of you this Christmas season.

  13. Just wanted to stop by and wish you a very Merry Christmas, Bill. Your inspiration has touched countless lives. God bless you.

  14. Jennifer Stepanski

    Re-reading this today. It is always so good to hear from you! God is great! Yes, thank you so much for your efforts to get a message out to us and to use your life lessons to help us! Thank you for sharing your gifts. You inspire me! I love you. Dear Lord Jesus, please continue giving Bill your strength. Wrap your loving arms around him. Thank you Jesus for your healing power! We Praise you and thank you for Life, love, joy, peace. Help us to shine bright, as Bill does. Bless him for his faith. Help us to grow strong in you Lord. Thank you for your favor today dear Father God. Glory to God! Thank you. In Jesus name we pray, Amen!
    Happy Thanksgiving. We Believe, We Believe in Miracles. So Thankful and grateful. Help us be humble! Humble and Kind!!!! Love to the family!!!!!!

  15. Thank you, Bill, for this powerful reflection on your journey toward humility. It brought up memories of Diane, and her struggle each time she had to relinquish yet another important sign of being in control. Given my age and health issues, this is a timely piece for me. No, I don’t have anything like ALS. But the struggle to give up pieces of my independent self are just as difficult. Thanks for leading the way not just in your life, but in your writing. There’s something healing about them–especially when they strike a raw nerve. 🙂
    Blessings of peace and hope in this Thanksgiving season.

    • Thank you, Elouise. After watching your own sister be humbled by this horrible disease, I know you can relate to this post. I’m sorry you had to watch that frustrating process.

      • Actually, it changed me from the inside out–in very good ways, despite the agony of watching her battle. I applaud every ALS patient able and willing to be public about ways the process affects them. It’s a distinctly personal disease–which, I think, adds to the outrage we rightly feel about it. I’m happy to have this message from you today and know that you’re here on this planet! 🙂

  16. Another wonderful post! Pride is such a stubborn beast and in most cases very stealth, as we don’t even know we are struck by it until it his home hard one day.

  17. You’re spot on, Bill. Humility bumps against pride all the time–and it’s painful! But your gracious example, of being unwilling to use a wheelchair, reminds me of how often I choose self-reliance and what I want to appear to be rather than dealing with what is. Humility is underscored by honesty–with God, with myself. Thanks for your willingness to be so genuine here. Your words really speak to my heart.

  18. Amen to all you shared. So good to hear from you again. Thank you. Blessings.

  19. Great post! I am thankful you have God on your side.. You described moving at tortoise shell pace.. oddly enough a Chinese doctor treats his ALS patients with tortoise shell.. God’s green earth offers many cures within it.. I pray that God will reveal just the right one to you 🙂

  20. Simply wonderful Bill. Re-blogged this as well. What a witness you and your family are!

  21. Well Bill its been a long time since those days when I stayed with you in Texas. Your courage and commitment to God is a blessing to all of us. Your more of a man than anyone I know. Real men can be strong and humble at the same time. God bless you and your family. Doug

    • Thank you very much, Doug. It’s great to hear from you. I imagine you have learned a lot about humility as well heartache and so many other difficult lessons over the last several years.
      You guys have been in our prayers.

  22. Another great post and so true! I can relate as so many times God has had to humble me because I wasn’t. I like what you wrote about God not being able to give grace to the proud because the proud refuse it. Wow. Yes. I get that. God longs to give us everything. The Bible says when we humble ourselves, he’ll lift us up. It is a matter of us surrendering, humbling ourselves because he is God. He has everything we need. He is everything. Thank you for sharing. And I’m glad you are humbling fighting 😉

  23. I’m still learning, too. Thank you so much for your post! I’m sure you’ve heard it time and time again, but I’ll say it again—you are an inspiration and faithful witness!

  24. Hi Bill, I entered a comment three or four days ago and it seems to have disappeared, not to worry. I took the liberty of using some of your dialogue for a post of mine, it struck a cord, I trust you don’t mind. I hold you and your family up in my prayers nightly, both you and your wife and family are such a witness for God’s grace. I thank you for your honesty and testimony. God’s rich blessings to you.

  25. You are a “Living Testimony” of His Grace in Motion….and Unshakable Hope, dear brother in Christ Jesus. May God continue to bless you from the top of your head to the loving soles of your feet. ~Zoey

  26. Oh that I would choose humility. Thank you, Bill, for challenging me once again. It’s great to hear from you. I prayed for you today.

  27. Thank you, Bill, for sharing this excellent message on humility. Your posts always bless and encourage me so much. I thank the Lord for your life, for always speaking to me through you, for blessing so many people in this world through you. Your life is a beautiful testimony of the power, love, and grace of our Almighty God. May He continue to bless, strengthen, & anoint you to do the work He created you to do for Him on this earth, in Jesus name, amen.

  28. You never fail to challenge me, Bill. Dammit. ;>) Love you, brother.

  29. Really enjoyed your perspective and views of how you perceive others and what’s going on inside your head. You are one tough guy to have fought this battle successfully for so long!!! Keep fighting!!!

  30. Always delighted and blessed to hear a word from you Bill – Wynema

  31. Beautiful Bill! Your statement “The Bible tells us that God (only) gives His grace to the humble (James 4:6). It’s not that He doesn’t want to give grace to the proud, it’s just that the proud refuse His grace. Pride is by definition self-reliance, an illusion that keeps God and others at a comfortable distance.” is where the rubber hits the road. I don’t profess to know humility like you have experienced but I do know that my heart fills with love for you whenever I think of you or hold you up to our God in my nightly prayers. I also think of your wife and family. They also are a testimony of God’s grace and love. Someday we will be together in God’s new Jerusalem and I can easily imagine me learning from you. You are precious and cherished and loved and a blessing yourself. I thank you brother for your faith and testimony. I thank your family for their love for you. You fill my heart with love and that can only come from our Heavenly Father, which is reasonable, because you are His child. God’s peace and grace be with you always. Bruce

    • Thank you, Bruce, for your kind words and especially for your prayers. I really believe that the prayers of family and friends have sustained us through this long and difficult trial.

  32. Thank you Bill. Blessings to you.

  33. Thank you for sharing your experiences and your heart.

  34. So good to hear from you Bill! Thank you for sharing your perspective on trials. Better to humble ourselves than be humbled.

  35. A wonderful word. All of us should examine ourselves in this area of humility and pride. I know you’ve given me food for thought. Thank you.

  36. So proud to call this very humble man my brother, Bill you have graced us with your knowledge, fortitude and love. You are our inspiration,here’s to 20 more years! Love you, Ellen

  37. You fully hit the mark with this one, Bill–“Fighting against the process of being humbled is a miserable way to live, especially when you’re dying.” I’m going to frame it and put it in my office as a reminder to myself and an encouragement to my Clients. Thank you, friend. ( :

  38. Thank you so much for sharing something so personal! I’ve had some health issues too; at some point you just go with it. Not give in, but go with. If that makes sense. Keep hanging in there, sir!

  39. Bill, I love your honest sharing of your hard-earned wisdom. I’m ashamed to admit I found it humbling to walk with a limp for a few days while my foot was sore; I was also startled by the depth of my pride and the shallowness of my acceptance of such a trivial trial. “He’s still working on me…” Keep shining, dear brother.
    Blessings to you and Mary ~ Wendy

    • Thank you, Wendy. I’m sorry you hurt your foot.
      Mary broke her foot and severely sprained her ankle running (pot hole). She had to wear a boot for almost two months. She went to an outdoor mall with my sisters and I tried to get her use a wheelchair (I was testing her pride:), but she wouldn’t do it. I don’t know if her pride had anything to do with it. As a rule, I don’t recommend using your spouse to conduct social experiments 🙂

      • Bill, I’m ashamed of how many layers of pride cover my heart and mind. Each time one is removed, a new “experiment” reveals yet another one in need of surgery. 🙂

        • I know exactly what you mean, Wendy. I skipped a few “layers” in my post, Mary reminded me of how resistant I was to asking for help or using a walker or even ankle braces…

          • Just had to reply to this one. Don’t you just love how our wives have this keen sense of memory! I have always imagined me standing in front of our Lord and saying “I think I did pretty good in this area.” and from behind me I hear my wife saying, “Bruce, Bruce, do you remember the time …..” And the two shall become one ….” one side of me is more chatty than the other. Wouldn’t change it for the world!

          • Yeah, it’s amazing how, after many years of marriage, we remember things differently 🙂

      • You’re a brave man Bill. Hopefully Mary won’t smack you (I know she wouldn’t). Great to see your sense of humour!

  40. You have earned the right to teach us about humility, Bill. Thank you for your wise and honest words. Ever since I started following your blog several years ago you have exemplified humility in your dependence of God and gracious appreciation of others. ‘Know what else I see? Perseverance, spiritual strength, and great faith. You are an example to us all!

    • Thank you, Nancy.
      You always have uplifting comments. I don’t know if “I’ve earned the right” (to speak about these things), but I do feel that Mary and I are an example of the depth of God’s grace – His grace really is sufficient.

  41. jacquelinegwallace

    Bill, you’ve said so much in those few words. I’m misty eyed and choked up because I know exactly what you are saying, and have, in fact, said/written similar things myself. And I still have these pride fights. I always thanked God (which is a good thing) that my MG was not so bad in my legs and I didn’t have to use a wheelchair. But there was pride mixed in there too, and God has a way of chipping away at it until we thank God for the really important things, as we sit in that wheelchair (which I’ve done)! It is good to be a fighter, but I realize I have to carefully distinguish between fighting against my pride and fighting for my pride. Thank you for this good article and reminder, a prod, to excellence in our walk with the Lord. Blessings on you and yours.

  42. As always, your posts bring me to tears.
    It’s the chiseling, molding and humility that forms and shapes our character for His purposes. The Holy Spirit works a Holy care for righteousness in our souls. It starts with the stony heart being renewed into a heart of flesh. For those who walk through the fire with the Lord, it ends in a purified life. Refined as gold, the dross is cleared away and what reflects back is Christ.

    God bless you, faithful one!

    • Thank you for your always encouraging comments.
      I think you’re right about God using trials to shape us into His image, but, as I mentioned, even in the most difficult trials, we still have to choose to cooperate with His humbling process.

  43. Such good words, Bill. You are amazing and you inspire me more than you will ever know. Keep those words coming…you need to get all of your writings published…just sayin 🙂

  44. Hello Bill,

    You got me thinking! LOL in JOY! Seriously,Bill, it seems to permeate through your article that separation from God is our pride. Which to me makes perfect sense.

    1 John 2:15-17 … the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life…

    Makes me wonder if the first two are indicators of the existence of last? I do have a denial problem sometimes! And if I gain any of them they are all temporal and do me no good in eternity.
    I wonder what I look like underneath all my pride? Thanks for the powerful presentation of the truth being fleshed out in a believer Bill.

    • Thank you, Denny. Yes, I agree that pride is what holds Christians back from doing everything God has for us to do. Example: what keeps Christians from sharing the gospel message with a stranger? Fear of rejection or embarrassment… That’s pride. Imagine how many more people would hear the good news if Christians were truly humble.

      • Bill – Guilty as charged! from sharing gospel grace because I imagine that ‘they’ won’t accept what I have to say and they THEY might feel awkward each time they subsequqently see me, like I’m going to push Amway on them or something perceived as entrapping and sleazy.

        I agree that as much as I TRY to be humble, I can only identify probably 5 % of my total pride. Boy is He patient!

        Thank you, Bill, for making the effort to get your thoughts out in the blogosphere and for responding to us.

        Continuing to pray for you to hold on to your faith, our most precious possession!

  45. This is wonderful. Thanks for sharing this. It was very touching and spoke directly to me.

  46. Your very last paragraph struck a chord with me. Thanks for sharing from your experience on what it means to humble oneself. Your words painted a picture in my mind and I am guilty of being impatient at times when stuck behind someone who is walking too slow. We are all a work in progress until God determines when to call us home.

  47. Hi Daddy! This is golden wisdom and truth that will never get old but only shine brighter…like you. 🙂 Thanks for taking all the time to “type” and share this! Sharing this with some friends. Love you!!!!

  48. Love your posts my friend. I hope you are well today. God bless!

  49. We indeed do learn a lot when going through trials.. .. humility as you wrote so beautifully about… and compassion, understanding, perseverance and so much more.
    Your posts have brought so much ‘hope’ and ‘inspiration’ to many.. take care ! Diane

  50. Thank you for another thought provoking and inspiring post.
    James, in the verse after the one you cited, admonishes us to submit to God and resist the devil. Time after time I come up against my innate unwillingness to either submit or be humble. That is the main battle of life, to get past this unwillingness (stubbornness) in order to experience the peace that God gives.

  51. My brother -in- law had als for four years. During that time, he really taught me a lot in terms of perspective. i think he taught quite a few of us!

  52. Wonderful post Bill. Most of us run from being humbled and glory in self reliance. Thank you 😊 for sharing your life experience!

  53. You are such a role model, Bill. The lessons you teach are profound. Thank you, once again, for sharing what you have learned. Wishing you and yours a blessed Thanksgiving.

  54. Love this Bill!

  55. Thank you very much for the re-blog, Bruce.

  1. Pingback: “Becoming Humble” 11/14/2016 Written by my friend Bill Sweeney | God's group

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