Once there was a man with much to boast of; and boy, did he.
The man was builder/conqueror/despot Nebuchadnezzar. A dream, brought home by a genuine prophet, had warned him of the consequences of his arrogance and called him to humble himself before God (Dan. 4:2-27). Nebuchadnezzar shrugged off the prophet's pleas and doubled down (Dan. 4:28-33). The king was instantly humiliated by a word from Heaven, and spent seven periods of time (?; don't ask) living like an animal (Dan. 4:32-33), until he saw himself in true proportion to God (Dan. 4:34-36). Now Nebuchadnezzar wasn't so big, but God was.
In this case, Nebuchadnezzar was both (outwardly) humiliated, and (inwardly) humbled. That is, God undid him, and he received the message. It's actually a pretty happy story. Many believe ol' Nabu-kudurri-usur was saved through the encounter. Possible. Only God knows.
Too many of the similar stories I know, first-hand and second-, do not yet have such happy endings.
I know of a number of folks who have been massively and/or repeatedly humiliated, but never humbled. I could name politicians past and present, preachers past and present, religious bodies past and present, and individuals past or present. I could name a name leading the news recently. Some of these folks I've never met; some I knew (or thought I knew) as well as I will ever know anyone who isn't me.
In each case, the natural process of following (sinful) choice A led to (foolish) choice B, which then led to disaster. Anyone with two functional neurons to fire in sequence, observing the situation, could make the connection: A led to B; A is the root-problem. Humble yourself. "Own," then disown A.
But, see, children, here's a crucial axiom of fallen humanity. It should probably be added to the 25 Things I've Learned (which seem more timely than ever)... though that would mess up the title. But here it is:
Everyone caught in a sin will either repent, or double downSin snowballs.
There's only one way to be rid of a sin, and that way lies through repentance. Repentance is the way of humility. Repentance loves God, so it hates the sin. Repentance sees God as big, so it sees the sin as despicable. Repentance admits culpability, because it craves forgiveness — and only guilty people can be forgiven. Hence the need for "owning" — for confession — and for "disowning" through repentance.
By contrast, refusal to be rid of the sin inexorably takes one in the other direction. All defenses go up, and all assailants must be repulsed. Rationalization, blame-shifting, evasion, equivocation, lies, excuses... all these and many other baleful tools lie in the arsenal of the unrepentant.
Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper,...and its companion warning:
but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy
One who becomes stiff-necked, after many reprimandsThe lesson to us is clear: we should humble ourselves, lest we be humiliated. "Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you," Peter admonishes (1 Pet. 5:6).
will be shattered instantly— beyond recovery
(Proverbs 29:1 CSB)
Refuse to do so, and we will learn Nebuchadnezzar's lesson: that "those who walk in pride he is able to humble" (Dan. 4:37).
The fall back lesson is no less clear: if it comes to humiliation, take the message to heart. Don't be the last to know. Don't wait until the two saddest words in the English language become your epitaph:
UPDATE: see also this.