We’ve all heard about staying humble. It means not letting something making us big-headed and see ourselves as better than others. But that may be more like humility. So, what is the difference? Humble and humility are two words that confuse many people since they have similar meanings. Both humility and humble come from the same Latin root word, “humilis.” Humilis is for “low or close to the ground,” and refers to having or showing a modest or low estimate of one’s importance. The difference between these two words lies in their grammatical categories. Humble is an adjective whereas humility is a noun. This is the key difference between humble and humility. It is also important to note that the word humble also has other meanings in addition to modesty.

Psychologist Mark Leary tells us that most researchers suggest that humble people have an accurate view of themselves, acknowledge their mistakes and limitations, are open to other viewpoints and ideas, keep their accomplishments and abilities in perspective, have a low self-focus, but not a low self-esteem, and appreciate the value of all things, including other people.

And Psychologist Beverly D. Flaxington lets us know that a lot of people spend a great deal of time trying to figure out others – “What did they mean by that?” “What were they thinking?” “Why would they make that choice, versus another choice?” People do this and think of it as “knowing others.” You might say, “I get people – I am wise.” But knowing one’s self leads to mastery of one’s self, and that is where true power of humbleness lies.

Flaxington goes on to say that being humble does not come naturally to most people, so she offers the following steps in being a humble person. First, “Step outside yourself from time to time in relationship to others.” People get into a rut; in the way they operate with other people. In other words, instead of saying “What does that mean?” we say, “Why am I thinking like this?”

Second, “Listen instead of speaking.” Put your attention on the other person rather than on yourself. Don’t just listen to the words from your frame of reasoning; listen to what’s underneath their words. What do they need from you in the moment they are speaking? Stay humble; get focused on what you can give, not on what you can get.

Third, “Watch your emotions and understand your triggers.” When you get angry – what provokes the anger? When you are sad – what stimulates the emotion of sadness? When you feel joyful – what contributes to your joy? Stay humble. Become interested in your own emotional response. Instead of just responding next time, consider your response and what it connects to. Every emotion has a learning inside it.

Fourth, “Give joyfully.” Many people give out of guilt or responsibility or a connection to being “a nice person.” This can lead to resentment and frustration when others don’t give, or you think you give too much. When you give, remain humble. Let go and give to your heart’s content – be a cheerful giver.

Fifth, “Start over every day.” Most people are not taught to be humble. It can be confused with simply putting ego to the side, or giving so much of one’s self that there is little left! True humbleness is knowing who you are and having the calm confidence in yourself that you are able to be other-focused, without sacrificing all that matters to you. It’s not easy. It takes practice. Look for ways each day to practice “being humble and kind.”

Then David Nield, contributing journalist at ScienceAlert, says that psychologists have identified an important trait that could be shared by truly humble people – something called “hypo-egoic nonentitlement.” That simply means that you don’t believe your positive qualities and life achievements entitle you to any kind of special treatment from others. That’s slightly different to having a tendency to downplay your strengths and your achievements, which you might ordinarily associate with being humble, and it gives us a new insight into the essence of humility.

In other words, accept the fact that there are people out there that are smarter and more educated than you are on a variety of subjects. So, don’t act like a “know-it-all.” But at the same time, you stand alone when it comes to the lessons and insights you’ve learned over time. That belongs to you. Be humble, use it wisely, don’t insist on everyone agreeing with you or that everybody should follow your advice. Offer what you know and leave the response up to them.

But what does the Word of God have to say about being humble? Solomon tells us that “When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with the humble is wisdom.”[1] And the prophet Micah calls out, “O people, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”[2]

Jesus taught that “Whoever exalts themselves will be humbled, and whoever humbles themselves will be exalted.”[3] And the Apostle Peter advises that we “Humble ourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time He may exalt us.”[4] Also, the Apostle James notes that “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”[5]

But the most notable emphasis on being humble comes in God’s answer to King Solomon’s prayer for the first Temple. The LORD said, “If my people who are called by My name humble themselves, and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”[6] We need to follow this divine advice today more than ever before in our history. – Dr. Robert R Seyda

[1] Proverbs 11:2

[2] Micah 6:8

[3] Matthew 23:12

[4] 1 Peter 5:6

[5] James 4:6

[6] 2 Chronicles 7:14

About drbob76

Retired missionary, pastor, seminary professor, Board Certified Chaplain and American Cancer Society Hope Lodge Director.
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