False Humility

For the past week I have been wrestling with this nagging concept that I will call, “False Humility.” False humility is that response that looks like humility, may even sound like humility, but it is really insecurity. There is a fine line between the two. False humility is very subtle and often dismissed. I am having a hard time dismissing false humility in me.

I will admit that I am really bad at receiving compliments. I dismiss them even before the compliment is fully out of the person’s mouth. I am not a good receiver period, but more so with compliments. For me compliments highlight my insecurity. I respond out of that insecurity, but that response can also look like humility. It’s not. I think the lie behind false humility is that I think dismissing a compliment, or encouragement, makes me look humble. I can’t even say, “thank you” before I am justifying why I am not that compliment.

Choosing humility does not come at the price of my own self-worth. If I am responding in a way that dismisses my self-worth that is insecurity. Tearing myself down is not humility it is insecurity.

So what does “false humility” look like?

Here’s an example from my life. Let’s say someone compliments me on something I have done. They tell me that it’s really good. My immediate response is, “I could’ve done better. It’s not my best work. Or really you could’ve done better.

A more identifiable example has to do with looks. If someone compliments me on my looks some how I immediately dismiss their words. My response can sound like, “it’s not my best hair day. Or this outfit? I got dressed really fast.” Subtle but dismissive. This says more about my insecurities than my humility.

What does humility look like?

Humility is a character trait that acknowledges the need for a savior. A person of humility is real about their weaknesses in a way that acknowledges a need for grace and forgives, but does not diminish their self-worth. Humility acknowledges sin, but does not diminish the worth of the sinner. The person who humbles themselves is teachable. Teachable people don’t claim to know it all, but also doesn’t dismiss what they do know. Humble people are approachable and open for conversation, even hard ones. Humble people own their stuff, as well as, engage to make things right. Humble people do not dismiss their self-worth in any of those areas.

Humility does not take the place of honor, but considers other better than themselves. False humility in this mindset can sound comparative, and more often involves a blow to the self. Humble people who are able to consider others better looks like celebrating another person gifts and talents. Humility can celebrate someone else fully without comparison.

Jesus was perfect humility. Jesus chose to die to himself all the time in humility. Jesus never dismissed his self-worth, or the worth of others. Jesus never compared himself to anyone. Jesus valued everyone. He considered everyone better than himself and valued them fully.

Jesus spent many days giving the most incredible speeches to hundreds and thousands of people. BUT then he washed feet and touched the untouchable.

One day Jesus gave an amazing speech and performed a miracle to feed five thousand plus people, but he also helped pass out that bread and the  fish he just multiplied. Jesus never acted like he was above anything.

I want to be a person of true humility. I want true humility to take root in me. I desire my response to say more about him than my insecurities.

What does your humility saying?

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33 Comments

  1. Get. Outta. My. Head. Girl.

  2. I’m with Randi :-) I swear we are the same person, walking around in two different bodies. Everything you wrote is EXACTLY what I am processing through myself. I dismiss compliments so fast, they don’t even have time to get to my head let alone my heart. I hear someone’s compliments and I immediately dismiss them as “yeah but….” A friend of mine helped me see recently that my “humility” is really just disguised shame. Shame drives those responses to compliments more than true humility. I heard a quote once that I think says “humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less.” I think I got that right, either way I think its true. I’ve definitely confused the two before and like you I want to exhibit true humility not the false kind. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Love ya!

    • Solid quote out of you friend! I’m gonna write that down for today!

      I like your point on humility masking something in our hearts. Do you think your friend right about shame for you? I’m gonna think about what it is for me.

  3. Wonderful post, Tracee. Definitely food for thought.

    • Thanks bajenpoet. Would love to know what your thoughts come up with

  4. “Humility is a character trait that acknowledges the need for a savior.”

    You have developed one of the BEST working definitions of humility I have seen to date. God taught me about 7 years ago that Humility = “acknowledging I have need” and Pride = “denying that I have need of God”

    I LOVE that you took this basic definition and expanded it and gave it feet and legs. LOVE it.

    Growing up, I was taught – “don’t feel, don’t have needs, don’t talk” – so it has taken God a LOT of years to deconstruct that faulty belief system and teach me that it is OK to ask for help and receive it and to teach me that to NOT do those things is actually prideful…

    love your posts girl… they always track w/my heart :)

    • Those are great definitions. The one on pride reminds me of the verse in 1john which talks about if we claim to be without sin, the truth is not in us. Pride takes God out of the life equation.

      I can’t remember what I was taught to do or say. I think my response comes harmful feedback in my life. Out of those places, self-sufficiency sets in. Self-sufficiency is my form of pride. Well self-sufficiency is pride. That keeps me distant from him. It even keeps in my sin. Grr!

      Love your heart friend! Thank you for your thoughts!

  5. Yeah. I second Randi. Get outta my head! ;)

    I’ve struggled with this for years because I was basically taught (in my church) that to accept compliments or any type of praise was cocky and Jesus wouldn’t be pleased. Only HE deserves the praise and honor.

    So I learned very quickly to say things like “Oh. It wasn’t me. It was Him.” or “Nah. I don’t look as good as so and so.” Etc. Etc.

    It even spills over in my marriage: “No. I’m not attractive. I need to lose 20 pounds” “This dress makes me look fat, not good. But thanks anyways babe.”

    Yuck.

    But really, a compliment received isn’t a horrible thing. God gave me gifts. He made me and is pleased with me. (Again, head/heart connection lacking here). So why would it be horrible to say, “Thanks! I love singing that song!” or “Oh! Thanks! That’s why i bought this outfit.”

    I don’t know.

    Stuff to think about for sure.

    xxx M.

    • Mary!

      It is so interesting to see what take aways people have from growing up, especially from in the church. Like Jenny was taught to deny herself and not feeling and thoughts. Or that you grew up thinking that accepting a compliment was associated with being cocky. Dang the lies!! I am with you. Why don’t i say more easily, “thank you, i love doing “stuff” like that.” or “I really enjoyed my fun outfit today..”

      It does trickle down to every other area of life. I need to think about my old school take-aways.

      Love your thoughts!

  6. there is an old school song i used to sing in church that says “humble yourself in the sight of the Lord, and he will lift you up”. it comes from a verse in James. I always wondered when i was little, why we sang that song all the time. i thought it was because there was because there was a guy part and a girl part that echo’ed so everyone could sing and it sounded cool. but when i think about that song now, it drives me to my knees. i want to humble myself in the sight of the Lord -as he looks at me, i want him to see my thankfulness that he died for me so that i could live for him. as a youth pastor, i am constantly up front. its hard after a message i preach to know how to handle compliments. i sometimes feel like i either sucked and people felt bad for me (insecurity and self sufficiency), or even worse, that i rocked it and wanted the compliments heaped on (false humilty in a title bout with humility). but in reality, what has touched peoples hearts is not becuase of anything i did, but because i stepped aside and let God do his thing. i want to know how to really humble myself in the sight of the Lord.

    • I just tackled your comment! haha! Now i have that song in my head. I can also picture you as a little AG kid loving a song with both guys and girls parts! haha!

      I like how you said that “touch people’s hearts by stepping aside and letting God do his thing.” Why can’t we accept compliments when God uses us. I want to be used so bad. So when he does, why am i not more pumped!?

  7. I just love how you write about what is in my heart! James Swynford preached on Jer. 34-35 last night and his big take away was:

    God is asking us: “Do you know how much you need me?”

    I’ve been thinking of it in terms of light… before electricity, mankind feared the Lord and required his intervention over the night. Now we forget how much we need him to bring the night to an end each day.

    And seriously. You’re totally right about false insecurity. If electricity failed, would we be humbled in the darkness? Or would we just say, I can’t believe we let the grid go down?

    • Karen!! holla chica!

      That sounded like an awesome sermon! Lots to marinate on. I wish i could honestly say to God that i submit all my need before him. I am trying to be still for him to break that self-sufficiency in me. Dang that is hard!!

      It is amazing all the tangible things we depend on over God. All things from God, we have shifted to depending on those things rather than the enabler of those things.

      Awesome thoughts!! Thanks for commenting!

  8. for me sometimes i think it goes back to mary’s comment about how we are taught to accept compliments growing up. i think i was taught that you always had to “give it back to God” which in a way produced more false humility. i know we are suppose to give God the credit but also realize that he is using us to fulfull his purpose, his glory, his truth. what i want is true humility. trumility. :) to be able to recognize God in me and through me and to be humbled by the fact that chooses to use me to do his thing.

  9. Woman, you have such an amazing way at explaining things most of us don’t have words for.

    I am totally with you in the insecurity thing. And I think it’s because I don’t see the physical traits in myself that othetprs compliment that I’d rather stop them before they finish, otherwise I’d have tot ake a look at what I really see in myself. And that’s uncomfortable.

    But the thingsnthat truly overwhelm me, that really humble me, are the blessings. The fact that people care about me for no reason other than the fact that I exist. That they get something from my life… A life that I have no control over. I think because those things are out of my hands, they overwhelm me more.

    I can work on my appearance, I can work on my talents… But the simple act of being loved is something that is just a gift. Like you said, they require the savior. And it humbles me in ways I can’t describe.

    I guess that maybe I need to put the savior back into the things I think I can control, eh?

    • Gitzafrass!

      Dang your heart is awesome! Thank you for your encouraging words for me! So appreciate you!

      You have me thinking about the loving part of humility and other peoples hearts for us. I forget how hurtful my dismissal can be to another. When o down play or dismiss someone’s encouraging words or compliment, it’s hurtful. I hate hurting others out of my insecurities. I don’t want dismiss another persons love for me. I wonder how much this immediate response to dismiss affects God’s heart and thoughts for me? Hmmm?

      Love your heart and thoughts!

  10. i was thinking of this very topic this weekend. i asked myself why do i dismiss just about every single compliment, regardless of who it’s from. i may say politely say “thank you” but in my mind i have already told myself that it’s probably not true. argh!
    on the flip side when i give a compliment i want the person to receive it and know that i truly mean it. i hope the person would walk a little taller knowing they are valued and the ultimate would be if my kind words could take the place of negative words that was spoken over them somewhere in their past.

    • I could not agree with you more Jessica! I want people to feel valued by me and know that i mean what i say. I hope that they can really hear me. I say all that, but i need to do the same.

  11. one thing i’ve been chewing on for the last 30 seconds is that true humility is a form of worship, or worth-ship to God. i’m not bringing Him glory when I dismiss or redirect compliments. i think He’s a proud father (even though we keep messing up) and it hurts His hugeeeeee heart when we our humility isn’t truly humble.

    i feel like I struggle with scapegoating excuses and compliments to God. while He deserves more glory than we can ever think of giving Him, I think fakumility (haha) is can almost be degrading to Him. There’s nothing wrong in saying “it was God working in me,” but i think our tendency (well mine at least) is to forget or just hate on the “me” part of the phrase…seeing myself more broken by sin than redeemed by the overflowing grace of the Cross.

    but related to that i’ve been stuck on phil 2:7 since leading a small group on it last night. he “made himself nothing” (emphasis on the made) makes me think that this is a lifelong process and true humility is something we have to grow in to.

  12. I have a hard time accepting compliments too. But I’m learning. Humility is not only hard to grasp and obtain but the moment you think you’re there…..”Hello, Pride.”

    • Definitely hard to grasp. I know my pride gets in the way too much.

  13. Humility is something I struggle with. False humility is something I struggle with more. For years I would dismiss compliments thinking people said them just to make me feel better but they actually just made me self-conscious. Or I would dismiss them because I thought I had to so I wasn’t being arrogant.

    More recently, I’ve been trying to just say ‘Thank you’ to compliments. Acknowledge that someone took the time to give me a compliment and not dismiss them right away. It’s an exercise for me, but I’m trying. I still defend against it or dismiss it.

    More sand to add to my desert of humility.

  14. this is something i think about often (thus our conversations on the subject)…

    under my false humility is a foundation of fear. and i hate that.

    • I would go so far as to say most negative thought is founded in fear. I know mine are. I have lots of phobias that are not bug related. Grr!

      Pot or kettle?

  15. That was a really good clearification for me about true vs. false humility! I have been deceived over the years to think humility is putty myself down which really confused me because I was like this is humble? It feels awefull. It was not. I noticed the other day! I was complimented on a photo about how I looked and my gut reaction was going to write down yeah, but…xyz. But I didn’t. I caught myself and said, “Thank you!”. It felt GREAT. I have been the one to dimish my own self-worth and not other people as I thought or blamed them. :) Life gives you all these subtle messages that affect our behavior and development. I am on the mend at 41. Hope you don’t take that long.

  16. Thanks for this wondrful insights. I really wanted to know and experience the true humility. God bless!

  17. I loved finding this post! False humility has been such a struggle for me too. I loved one of the replies that talked about it growing in us. It’s cool how when Jesus grows in us we get smaller! I think in our process of sanctification we will continue to struggle with pride which leads us daily to the cross which is awesome!!!

    Learning humility has been a theme in my life this year. I have found that its hard to look at my life and try to identify the ways that I have become more humble because then it makes me prideful in my humility. Haha as crazy as that is! Although distantly related to the topic, I came across this quote on twitter by Tim Keller that said, “let us preach grace till humility starts to grow within us” just thought I’d share that.

    • What a great quote, Abby! Humility is just hard to grab a hold of. It is definitely false advertising that humility is related to our lowly-ness. When in reality humility is just getting it. Humility is choosing compassion and grace because people are broken and sinful, we all are. it is simply recognizing that and responding in that to others. That is just loving well. So fun to hear from you!! hope you are doing well!

  18. Insightful..”Humble people own their stuff, are not diminished,are approchable, make things right” and , perhaps a way to cure a very self obsessed nation. Chuck

  19. It was a good start but humility and false humility covers so many more areas and so much more ground. The person that says “God bless you” after a disagreement when they don’t mean it in their heart is displaying a form of false humility because they know it makes them look good by saying it and irritates you in the process. The people that walk around pretending care about the poor yet are unwilling to actually do anything beyond a minor gesture are displaying false humility on an epic scale. Forced humility is false humility. Anytime someone does something because it looks good to others is displaying false humility. Smiling and trying to sugar coat things which the Bible teaches as clearly wrong like trying to get rich, greed, apathy, war, and so on are also forms of false humility meant to deceive others into thinking something is okay that isn’t by virtue of the mannerism used to convey their twisted message. Some even go as far as to set land mines out to try and head off anyone who might in total righteousness point out the sin they are deeply involved in by saying, “If you can’t be positive, then be quite!” Joel Olsteen. In reality if you point out that using God to get rich while others are starving is so unbiblical it isn’t even something a serious student of the Bible could possibly question is actually positive in God’s eyes and your duty as a Christian, but people like Joel use a false humility with a phony smile to twist good into evil and evil into good. And pointing examples out by name doesn’t mean I am not being humble or unhumble. It is just a reflection of reality and truth.

  20. Wow! So good. I just finished a series on one of my blogs called Killing Insecurity. I’ve found sometimes, not always, if you are confident in Christ, other people will call you arrogant and try to beat you into false humility. I love this post and thank you so much for posting it! God bless you.

  21. Yes, some of us take super long time to learn smthg from The Lord. Jesus says : Learn from me, for I’m gentle & humble in heart & you will find rest for your souls. It took me way longer than Esther to accept friends’ kind compliments.

    We tend to rmbr to work on the “HUMBLE” aspect but forget the “GENTLE”. The purpose of being gentle & humble in heart is so that we will find rest. When we experience rest, that is no struggle with our conscience, The Lord’s peace & joy will follow. Blessings:D

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