A Cup of Tea and a Double Gulp of Humility: Things My Soul Needs
I have been thinking a lot about stillness over these past few months. The louder culture yells, it seems, the more desperately I desire a deep quietude of the soul.
In one version of this blog, I examined this desire for quiet considering Biblical proclamations to be still before the Lord (e.g., Psalm 37:7). I spent time thinking through how Biblical stillness does not mean we do nothing as stillness before God is not the same as “unplugging” in the modern call for self-care. No, I believe that stillness before the Lord is more like Jesus’ explanation of the Sabbath (Mark 2:27), giving space to prepare us to act consistent with the greatest commandment (Matthew 22:36-40). Because I am not a theologian, I was planning to connect this to mindfulness; mindfulness is a connection to the present, a means to give us eyes to see and a willingness to act toward justice.
And yet, that is not what this blog is about. I still think there is something to those ideas but the more I wrote the more I realized those ideas were not the primary thoughts about stillness swirling around in my head. My current desire for stillness is less about mindfulness and more about humility. Humility as the calm amid cultural storms.
As a psychologist, I am interested in thinking about humility from a scientific perspective. This means we need to start with measurement. Measuring humility is a notoriously difficult task. How do you measure whether someone is humble? If you ask participants “How much do you agree with this statement? I am a humble person,” how should you interpret the results? Someone who is legitimately humble should agree, right? But in agreeing, are they somehow less humble? What about the truly arrogant person who is the “most humble of everyone” in their own eyes? It’s a thorny issue, one that has garnered quite a bit of research lately.
One of the more recent psychological definitions of humility comes from Worthington et al. (2017). A humble person is defined as one who is other-oriented, modest (not self-promoting), and someone who accurately represents themselves. So, if I have three gold medals earned in underwater basket-weaving world championships, it would not make me arrogant to accurately portray my expertise in this time-honored tradition. However, the other elements of humility would require that I do so in a way that is not self-aggrandizing and in a way that keeps others as my focal point. (i.e., “Friend, I see that you keep losing your car keys. I have developed some skill in underwater basket weaving. Would it serve you well if I made you a basket to store your keys?”)
In this article, several empirically-supported practices for developing humility are described along with some key reasons why we might want to develop more humility. Humility, it turns out, is a boon to mental well-being. For example, humble people tend to better navigate life’s stresses and challenges. They also tend to exhibit other traits and practices that also have a host of positive benefits—gratitude, generosity, prosocial behavior, among others. If you stop to think about it, some of this might make sense. These kinds of practices are built into the definition of humility. If we are not so focused on ourselves, but wondering how we can serve others, these practices naturally follow. Moreover, humility shows its benefits even in places where we might wonder if a bit of self-promotion might be beneficial. Consider CEOs. As the leaders of their company, we might think that a little bit of “look at me, I’m leading and I’m awesome” might not be so bad. And yet, research shows that humble CEOs are better leaders and more innovative than less humble CEOs.
I think a great deal of the chaos in our culture might be attenuated with a bit more humility. But even this statement needs some additional explanation as Worthington et al. (as well as other researchers) distinguish between general humility (as described above) and more specific instantiations of humility. One of my favorite types of humility is intellectual humility. (Note: favorite doesn’t mean it’s easy or that I’m somehow the most awesome of this kind of humility…)
Individuals who are intellectually humble are willing to admit that they might be wrong and that there are things they don’t know. (Hi, my name is Erin and there is a whole lot of things that I don’t know.) Intellectually humble individuals will change their beliefs when presented with evidence that their beliefs are wrong. (This one is harder for me.) According to this study, intellectually humble people tend to be curious, open to new ideas, and reflective. They are willing (and able) to sit in the “gray zones,” where things are not known with certainty (which, if we were honest, describes most of the things we “know”).
One might look at this list and think, “so, intellectually humble people must not have opinions; they must just appease and agree with whatever group they are in, right?” No. Intellectually humble people hold beliefs with the same kinds of convictions as other people, they just do so with more nuance, recognizing (or at least being open to someone else’s recognition) the limits of what they know. This means that, when there is high quality and robust evidence supporting their beliefs, an intellectually humble person will hold to their belief; their beliefs do not change with the wind. But they will do so in a way that serves others (i.e., listening, engaging, and calling others to the whole scope of the evidence on an issue) and is authentically open to evaluating new evidence that might not be consistent with their beliefs.
One of the great tensions Jesus modeled can be seen in intellectual humility. As Christians, we are to be thoughtful, to have reasons for our beliefs (e.g., 1 Peter 3:15), but these reasons are not to be wielded as weapons to interfere with the greatest commandment, to love God and love others (Matthew 22:36-40). On the flip side, loving others does not mean that “all opinions are equal” or that “everyone can believe what they want,” developing their own truths (or so-called ‘alternative facts’). The intellectually humble hold their beliefs with reason and conviction, with a willingness to re-evaluate with evidence, and with the goal of being a better neighbor (not beating their neighbor with their facts). We are called to something more than this. We are called to speak
love (Ephesians 4:15).
Let me now try to circle back to the peace—the stillness—that my heart craves. As I reflect on the quality and tone of conversations in our culture in this present moment, I am deeply aware of the lack of humility (generally) and intellectual humility (specifically). Nuance does not make good click bait and we are often too hurried for the depth of thinking that marks intellectual humility. I cannot change culture on my own, but I can—with God’s help—search my heart (Psalm 139:23-24). I can commit to a process of holding beliefs with a sense of curiosity and openness, to admitting that I might be wrong. I can confess my arrogance and turn my eyes toward others (Philippians 2:4), accurately, and modestly, portraying and leveraging my strengths for the benefit of my neighbor, always learning, always loving. This is difficult, but this is part of my calling. If you feel this is part of your calling as well, a good starting place is an open and honest acknowledgement that what we believe now is most likely a combination of things that are true and things that are false and that we can—and should—allow our minds to be changed with new evidence (empirical, revelation, tradition, community, experience, etc.).
I desire stillness. More specifically, I desire stillness to produce clarity. May the weight of glory bring humility and foster a stillness in my soul to distill culture’s competing shouts about truth as I steadfastly search the cloudy mirror for Jesus.
UPDATE: After this blog posted, I came across this quote from Andrew Murray in his book, Humility. I thought it worth sharing here, relative to the connection between quietude and humility:
Humility is perfect quietness of heart. It is to expect nothing, to wonder at nothing that is done to me, to feel nothing done against me. It is to be at rest when nobody praises me, and when I am blamed or despised. It is to have a blessed home in the Lord, where I can go in and shut the door, and kneel to my Father in secret, and am at peace as in a deep sea of calmness, when all around and above is trouble.
Hello Dr. Smith,
I truly enjoyed reading your blog. Being about done with all my psychology courses has allowed me to truly understand your blog and the importance of measuring humility, and how difficult it may be to measure whether someone is humble. That sparked a curiosity to think of how complex many other research concepts would be difficult given the measurement processes’ complexity.
Intellectual humility, however, was interesting to read. I would have to agree that it would be difficult for me to change my belief when presented with evidence that it was wrong because I would have never hoped to do so. However, that would not stop me from being open and willing to learn more. I enjoyed seeing how this topic could connect to Christianity, allowing us to understand that our goal is to become a better neighbor, not a superior one. I will attempt to be more open to re-evaluating my beliefs when provided with new evidence to spread that thought process (if you will) with others.
Hi, Janella! Thanks for your comments and for taking the time to leave a comment. Belief change is hard, to be sure. I recently listened to a podcast where Malcolm Gladwell commented that he has no problem with “self-contradiction” (in the form of changing beliefs over time) because he would hope that him now is better, smarter, wiser (etc.) than him 10 years ago, which means belief change is a natural part of our own development. I think if we separate ourselves from overextending the belief that “these ideas are my identity” (reserving that for a few, very specific, sacred beliefs which may still change, but require a higher burden of evidence), then belief change might not be so threatening. Being wrong (and changing our beliefs) is just a part of the journey so that in 10 years we can look back and say “I’m cooler, smarter, wiser, better…than I was 10 years ago.” Easy to say (maybe) hard to do (definitely).
Wow. Thank you for posting this on the blog and sharing your thoughts and honesty on the topic. The structure by itself brought peace to me while reading it. This is something that is not very often spoken of. We live in a world where everything is fast paced and what we want is fully desired. If we slow down or if things go unplanned, it leads to stress and unease. In reality, we do need moments of stillness to fuel our souls. I have been doing this on my own with morning devotional time and it reminds me how God has called us to be still and rest in His presence. To know that in the end everything is for His glory, many things will go unplanned but it will all be okay and ultimately, humility is something we all need.
God bless you Dr. Smith.
Celeste, thank you for taking the time to read and to share your thoughts! Although stillness and humility, at face value, don’t appear connected, I think that there is something deep in our souls that makes it so. If “my time is so valuable”/hustle culture dominates (because only I am awesome enough/know enough to do this thing), then I don’t have space for quiet and stillness. Resting in the presence of God, as you rightly point out that we are called to do, requires that we set aside what we think we should/ought to be doing (an act of humility). Because although we know a lot of things, that doesn’t always mean that we know best. Thanks again for sharing your thoughts! -Dr Smith
Hello Dr. Smith,
This post was very insightful. I found it interesting that people who are humble generally navigate life’s stresses/challenges better. I really enjoyed seeing the connections that humility has to all areas of our life. You also mentioned the importance of stillness and its connection to humility. This made me realize how fast-paced I can make my life (especially with school) and I often do remember to slow down and just rest in the stillness. Stillness is something that glorifies God and is something that I want to incorporate into my life even if it doesn’t feel natural.
Thanks for your comment, Faith! Yes, the connection between stillness and humility is one that I’ve been thinking of quite a bit lately. For me, some of my busyness is driven by an (unspoken) belief that “only I can do this” or that “my plans are the most important”. (This is not to downplay the very important role of good, hard work….just that work to the extreme of busyness can come out of an idea that I (alone) am the magic sauce in the mix. This is not humble.) I think that as I get more hurried, I should be compelled to sit in stillness more to really reflect on what I think I’m accomplishing and whether that is molding me more (or less) to Christ.
Dr. Smith!! 🙂
I must say that was an intersting read. This blog transported me to a clear beach at sunrise. Listening to the waves as they crash upon the shoreline. And while the sea reaches to kiss the earth I asked myself, have I been eating humility?? Why did this blog bring me to this place? For some reason I connected stillness with the sea. But, is the sea actually still? No! the sea is forever moving, and always changing. To be flexible like water and always willing to grow is a beautiful virtue. I have been trying to practice that in my life when I have the opportunity to learn more. The more I learn, the more meekness I should demonstrate. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this.
Hi Brent! What a beautiful image you have painted here. I love your connection to the stillness that a very dynamic and ever moving beach scene can create. Stillness is not the same as nothingness. In the same way, humility is not the opposite of work, achievement, beliefs… Yet there is something really powerful in the idea captured in their relationship. Thanks for sharing; you’ve given me something to ponder!
Your blog post really gave me something to ponder and left me with the sense of urgency and motivation to look into my own life and see in what ways I can exhibit more humility. I am almost embarrassed to say that I believe my definition or rather interpretation of humility has been wrong this whole time. I had always viewed humility as an act of diminishing ones talents and gifts in order to avoid self aggrandizing. But the way that you explained it here showed me that it is not putting yourself down to lift others up, or diminishing the gifts the Lord has given you, or your intelligence. I have found that often times, in attempt at humility, I have put myself down so that others would not see me as self centered or prideful. But I can still use the my gifts in a non self centered way, when I am doing it to serve others.
Reading your blog I also found your view point and explanation of intellectual humility both right on and very helpful. I have found too often in my own life that there is a struggle with holding to my convictions, faith, and beliefs with humility in situations where I would be interacting with someone who believes very different and immoral things. I have always wondered if being humble meant I had to abandon the urge in me to speak up against immoral things or correct misinformation, but I have confidence, now, in knowing that I can still do so, humbly. I want to make sure that every time I engage in a conversation like this that my intent would always be to serve the other and want truth for them out of love.
Thank you for you wonderful insight and God bless.
Nicolette, thank you so much for sharing. I’m so encouraged to hear your reflections and connection to your personal experiences. Some of the most humble people I know are also among the most accomplished…though they never treat others as beneath them. Their humility spurs so much love and valuation of others. It’s inspiring. (And, sadly, not the norm…) I’m convinced that being rooted in Christ allows us the freedom of humility; we aren’t trying to make a name for ourselves. Instead, we live lives that point to the One who always is.
Thank you for sharing your thoughts on humility and stillness. I truly enjoyed reading your post because it reflects a few things in my life that I am also going through right now. With culture, news, politics, social class and etc., constantly changing, I feel as if there are times in which we feel pressured to believe or think what most people do and this can cause much stress/insecurities about how we are living. A few bible verses you mentioned and the examples you gave of Jesus, helped me remember what our purpose here in life is. We are not here to impress anyone, to move along with the crowd, but to show our love for Christ to others. If we are constantly seeking God, we can feel his peace even at the most difficult times. “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand,” Isaiah 41:10.
Michelle, this is so good. Thank you for sharing. It is easier (though not “easy” still), to live humbly when we put ourselves in the proper place. We might be the protagonist of our story, but this is like a single episode in a much greater story in which we are most definitely not the protagonist. When we recognize that, we can be encouraged to live in a manner that points beyond ourselves.
Hello Dr. Smith,
Like you, I find myself craving that stillness and peace that is so elusive in today’s society and your take on finding that peace is a breath of fresh air. I have found myself swept away trying to discover the mindfulness that so many others have found peace in yet I still feel lost among the chaos and pressures of life. Reading your blog has made me realize that its not just the mindfulness, but the humility to God that helps calm the storm even for just one small moment. Recently, my classes have taught me about mindsets and the way the affect ones life. I have been working to implement a growth mindset in my life and humility is one of the pieces that fits right in for building that mindset. Instead of shying away from the discomfort my own lack of humility brings, I want to do that searching with the guidance of the Bible to grow my humility and worry less about my own interpretations of life. God has a plan, and in it we should trust.
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
Thanks, Jeremiah! Humility, as I see it, makes the most sense when we don’t have any fears about the things that make us want to self-assert. When we are firmly rooted in the identity we have in Christ, we can more easily be humble–things that might have otherwise threatened us, don’t have to.
I love your connection to mindset, too (such an important topic!!)….I’d be remiss not to mention that Dr. Mun wrote a blog on mindset a while back, too. Check it out (you can easily find it by searching by her name, linked on the right side of the blog home screen!)
Hello Dr. Smith,
First off, I would like to say that your post spoke to my heart and nearly brought me to tears. It seems as if I came across your post purposefully so I can read your message. The unpredictable yet paused nature in our world has brought confusion, emotional distress, isolation, and an overwhelming feeling of helplessness. Some felt pressured to stay “productive” and take advantage of this time, while others were discouraged and depressed. To be honest, I contemplated about the idea of “stillness” quite frequently because I too cannot bring my mind to rest, just as many might have felt during this pandemic. As a believer, I resorted to prayer to bring peace of mind. There is a specific prayer that I found that I believe pairs perfectly with your idea in intellectual humility of accepting your faults, embracing uncertainty, and being open-minded to new perspectives.
I will attach it below so you or anyone who comes across this post can be able to read it.
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.
Thank you for your post and I look forward to your future blogs!
Gabriela-thank you so much for sharing! I’m so glad to hear that this resonated. I don’t intuitively associated “peace” or “calm” and humility, but the more I reflect (theologically and scientifically), the link is undeniable. I think you are spot on to connect the Serenity Prayer, too. Have you ever read the full version? The prayer itself has a bit of an interesting (and dynamic) history, but here is one version:
God, give me grace to accept with serenity
the things that cannot be changed,
Courage to change the things
which should be changed,
and the Wisdom to distinguish
the one from the other.
Living one day at a time,
Enjoying one moment at a time,
Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace,
Taking, as Jesus did,
This sinful world as it is,
Not as I would have it,
Trusting that You will make all things right,
If I surrender to Your will,
So that I may be reasonably happy in this life,
And supremely happy with You forever in the next.
Other versions explicitly link our pursuit of change and acceptance to the wisdom that can only come from Christ.
Here is one secular take on what we can learn from that prayer: https://www.huffpost.com/entry/serenity-prayer-wisdom_n_4965139
Thanks again for sharing!
1. Dr. Smith, I thoroughly enjoyed reading your blog post on the scientific perspective of humility. One specific aspect within your post that had struck me the most, was referring to humility as a “boon to mental well-being.” I found it intriguing to read that those who are humbler, find themselves navigating through life’s hardships in a more constructive manner. Overall instating the notion that as individuals focus more on selflessness, we will further our obtained positive traits. Alongside this thought, the concept of intellectual humbleness brought some heavy self-reflection. I at times struggle with the ability to swallow my own pride and admit my wrongdoings. Being able to accept and recognize the limitations of my own knowledge is an idea that I feel I need to work on more, especially after putting your post into perspective. Thank you for your insights on this matter!
Allison, thank you so much for reading, and for your thoughtful response! When we focus so much on ourselves, we miss out on so many opportunities. When we recognize that our core identity is in Christ, we have both reason to boast and no need to (I think of Paul’s writing in Philippians chapter 4, especially versus 4, 8-9).
Hello Dr. Smith!
This post hit on something that I have been struggling with for a while now. I have been striving for stillness and peace the last few months and a lot of the time I would come back from a period of solitude more frustrated than when I went in. I believe the reason for that was my lack of humility. I expected God to do something great for me in my “stillness”, like he owed me answers the great questions of my life that I’m asking right now. But he doesn’t owe me a thing. I didn’t go into my solitude and practice of stillness with a posture of awe like I should have. I have to first recognize the state of total sin that I am in. It is then that I can look to my father and be so thankful that he looks on me lovingly.
Thank you for this post.
Wow, Joy, thank you for sharing this experience. I think you have highlighted something that I think about when I get stressed: self-care doesn’t work if it’s all about me. When we “unplug” or engage in “self-care” without humility (which requires an eye toward others), we are doomed before we get started. I can (and should!) do things that I love, to be sure, but when I try to “solve my stress” by “taking care of me”, that puts me at the top of the pedestal. There are a number of reasons this is problematic; I think your description highlights one of them (and I’ve been there!). This is very counter cultural (which says you are your #1). When we seek solitude and quiet in the context of Jesus’ words (“Your will, not mine”), there is so much to be filled with. That stance is the ultimate demonstration of humility.
Thanks again for reading and sharing-I appreciate it!
I agree with your post about finding clarity and opening our minds to other things in the world but with a loving heart. I really enjoyed the verse Ephesians 4:15, to speak the truth with love. The verse resonated with me because of a past experience I had when I did something that was sinful but was corrected not out of love. At that moment it made me despise Christians, because of how arrogant some of them are. I too want to find stillness in my heart. I pray for everyone to find this type of clarity as well. I think that all Christians are called to be like this.
Thank you for your time, Dr.Smith.
Lawrence, thank you for sharing. The situation you describe sounds really tough. As you search for stillness, I pray that the Lord will fill you abundantly in that quiet of the soul.
Hello Dr. Smith,
I really enjoyed reading your blog post and how you discussed your desire for stillness as being less about mindfulness and more about humility. As you further discussed measuring humility, I am also left questioning that when a person who agrees/admits to being humble, are they somehow less humble? I believe that in order for a person to truly be humble, a person should not boast about being the most humble of everyone, but must simply state “I am a humble person.” In this instance, they are not comparing themselves to others but are still modest and accurately representing themselves as you have stated in the definition of a humble person. I also really enjoyed your example about how the CEOs who are humble are shown to be more innovative and better leaders than CEOs that are less humble and seek praise. Through my few years of being a leader as a Non-Commissioned Officer in the Army and soon to be 2nd Lieutenant, I have come to the conclusion that one of the best leadership styles is one of humility that focuses on how they can better serve those that are underneath them. This really shows to people that you care about them which in turn fosters a positive work environment as people are willing to come to work happy knowing that the work they put in, is being noticed by the “leaders” above them. Thus, it is no wonder that research shows the best type of CEOs are ones that are humble and embrace humility because they create a positive environment that people want to work in.
Hi Steven, thanks for your input! It’s cool to hear how you have experienced the effects of humility in effective leadership (even if not in the context of business). I hope that this goes with you, continuing to transform you into the leader you are becomming!
This beautiful blog post and reflection on humility was one that I, and most likely others, needed to hear in this current moment. Through the post, I found myself asking the same questions you were, as in “How in the world can you accurately measure humility?” I was intrigued by the differences between general humility and intellectual humility. Especially, in the benefits to mental states that humility can bring.
Speaking to the correlation between a chaotic culture and humility, I find it fascinating that everyone wants to be heard, yet no one wants to listen. The middle ground or “gray zones” have somewhat become nonexistent. I believe our culture has turned into a “You talk and then I talk” situation, with little compassion, grace, or deep relationship building. As well, the comfort in the gray zones and the statement you made of “Hi, my name is Erin and there is a whole lot of things that I don’t know” was comforting. I personally find peace in being able to learn, not always have the right answer, or sometimes to simply not know.
This brought something to mind about, as followers of Christ, our trust and relationship with the Lord. The anecdote goes like this: when Apple announces a new iPhone, we all get excited. They do a big presentation about all the processors, displays, and gadgets inside of the phone that make it work. Most of us don’t know what that means, but we still get excited, want to get it, and trust that Apple made a product that works. Now translating this to our relationship with the Lord, we don’t always have to know the “processors” or the things that are going on behind the scenes all of the time. Sometimes all we need to do is to Trust in the Lord and know that He’s working
Hi Brittany, thank you so much for your comment! One thing that stood out to me is that the polarization within our culture does make real dialogue difficult, but I also think it’s true that the presentation of extremity isn’t totally accurate and, at the same time, it reinforces and brings about the very extremity that it was representing. This, I think, is especially problematic.
As a case illustration: the overwhelming majority of scientists agree that our climate is changing. This includes Christians. And yet, there isn’t a “story” when everyone agrees with something. So, we interview one scientist (“yes, the climate is changing!”) and need a story so we find someone in the overwhelming minority (e.g., the 1/10,000 scientist) who disagrees and we interview them to “balance the viewpoints.” (Oftentimes the “balanced viewpoint” will inappropriately pit a religious individual against the institution of science.) At first glance, balancing the viewpoints sounds like a good thing, but it communicates to viewers/consumers of the story that there is a 50/50 split among “scientists” or a division between scientists and religious believers. This is not (always) accurate. (In the same way, we can find Holocaust deniers….should we include them as a “counter” to every story about the Holocaust? Resoundingly: NO.)
Why did your comment make me think about this? Because when we can’t have real conversations that are back and forth aimed for an honest engagement with and about evidence, we end up with these “one side” and “the other side” represented in a way that might not be accurate or helpful (and is harmful when it is neither accurate nor helpful). Figuring out when to dialogue is, of course, at least in part a question of intellectual humility.
Now I’m rambling….maybe I need to spend a minute and write out another blog… 🙂 Thanks again for sharing. I appreciate your ideas!
I appreciated your thoughts on intellectual humility. I agree that our current culture is definitely lacking in honest conversations about what we do and do not understand. Intellectual humility seems more important now more than ever pending our increasingly polarizing society. It is easy to get caught in echo chambers of ideas that are accepted without having the opportunity to struggle through them and actually learn them. Initially stillness and humility may not seem connected, but I was reminded of Psalm 46:10. God asks us to be still and know that he is God. I believe we can find stillness in admitting our shortcomings, and recognizing that we do not have the a knowledge or understanding like God’s.
Issac, I agree! While we may never know like God (I think there was something early in Genesis about this….), once we acknowledge the fundamental incompleteness of our knowledge, we can more honestly engage with what we do know, making the best decisions with available information–limited as it might be. Thanks for sharing!
Dr. Smith, this post really made me think about how being humble is key. I feel as though if one is humble, less issues occur. I like to think I am now humble, but like you stated on the post, it is hard to measure one’s humbleness. I just know that I like the feeling of “stillness”. I like the fact that I do not need to show my every move, that people do not need to know everything. All that really matters is that God knows what I am doing. People often get sucked in, in trying to show everything that they do so that they can feel some sort of praise. I know I have taken the time out my day and have posted something just so people can see “how good I am doing”. In all reality, people do not care. It is all one’s perception. So often, people just feel better showing what it going on, but worry too much about it. After I stopped caring, this have been better. As long as He knows I am doing good in the world, makes me feel at ease.
Thank you for post and all these wonderful insights!
Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts, Lizet. I just read Allie’s comment and she used the word “freedom” in the context of humility. I think that is partly what you are tapping into here, too. When you do what is right without needing the “likes” or other-driven affirmation, there is freedom in that. When paired with a sense of openness (“is this right?”), especially in the context of community (e.g., other perspectives, evidences), this is truly powerful indeed.
Hello Dr. Smith!
I really appreciated this post on the value of humility and how we can consider it from a faith-based perspective in a time of cultural unrest. A part I enjoyed reading the most was your discussion on intellectual humility and how this can create a path of opportunities for learning for an individual. I really resonated with this concept because I think it is important to approach new information within the framework of being able to both learn and unlearn previous beliefs. Although I hold true to important beliefs such as empathy and compassion, I think this concept of intellectual humility can provide a sense of freedom in understanding things from a fresh perspective so that we can better connect with others and make significant changes to better the community.
Hey Allie-I think you are right to point to the freedom that comes from intellectual humility. When you can say, “I don’t know” without having to hide or pretend, we are speaking in freedom from fear (of judgement, alienation, ostracizing) and power. This is such an important component; thanks for bringing it up!
Hi Dr. Smith,
Thank you for your blog post. Your interpretation of humility and its connection to stillness resonated with me. It reminded me of the verse Psalms 46:10. Often times, this scripture is not fully represented. It is read as “Be still, and know that I am God.” But, the verse in its entirety is actually, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the Earth.”
This may not seem like a big deal, but I believe that not understanding the scripture in its entirety can lead to reading it in an incorrect context. For example, we may use this scripture when we are feeling anxious. Perhaps, we are waiting for admissions decisions to graduate school (me), and we are remembering that we need to “be still and know God.” We may find comfort in this verse, because we surrender our worries to Him.
Yet, as you mentioned, it is not merely stillness that we need. It is humility. See, we become still when we recognize our own vulnerability. We become still when we humble ourselves and know that “God will be exalted throughout the Earth.” There’s a sense of peace I feel when I remember that my God made me for His glory. Whatever “accomplishments” I have are gifts that He gave me to demonstrate His power.
I love that you said “Humility is perfect quietness of heart. It is to expect nothing, to wonder at nothing that is done to me, to feel nothing done against me.” When I read this, I delighted in how accurate this describes what I need right now in my life which is stillness.
Every night, I pray that I can get into the graduate school of my dreams. I ask God to make things happen, and I have anxiety over worldly matters.
Reading this, I am reminded to be still. To take peace in knowing that no matter what happens, My God will use me for His glory.
From afar, that may seem silly. Why would anyone want to be made simply for the glorification of another?
But, I see it differently. I am so fearfully and wonderfully made, that I was made in the image of the creator of the universe and every thing in it.
He took the time to make me and mold me. This is humbling, and I am still knowing it.
Jessica! Thank you for reading and sharing your thoughts. You have expressed the tension so beautifully. I am thankful that we worship a God who is bigger and more wonderful than I could ever be. My glory is only because He has given me the opportunity to participate in HIS glory. If that doesn’t make me sit still in my own smallness, while maintaining the utter dignity of being an image bearer, I’m not sure what will.
Dr. Smith, what a beautiful blog post. I enjoyed this blog post about humility so much. There was so much knowledge presented about the different understandings of someone who is “humble” that I simply did not know before. When you mentioned how humble people are able to navigate their stress better and have these positive factors, made me have a reflection on myself this past semester as I am about to graduate soon, I try to handle my stress by keeping a routine and overlook the overwhelming feelings of stress as I work a full-time job and am a full-time student. A takeaway that I got from this was being open to new ideas and to keep an open perspective as being considered a humble person because it is hard to keep an open eye towards something you feel strongly about but what I learned the past year from different opinions and perspectives, is that you can gain knowledge from hearing another person’s perspective. Knowledge is power and as humans we should take that power a demonstrate a humble person. I loved what you had to say about confessing your arrogance and a search of heart with God’s help. this is significant because it demonstrates character on our behalf and how we are willing to grow and be open towards a different perspective.
Thanks for reading and sharing your thought, Sophia! Being open to new ideas, and evaluating their evidence with rigor, requires that we hold the tension of our beliefs in light of the possibility that we could be wrong. It’s so hard! And yet, how many people met Jesus when he walked this earth and failed to see him–to REALLY see him–because he wasn’t what they expected (believed could/would be)? I don’t want to make that mistake.
Hello Dr. Smith,
Every word you’ve written has spoken to my heart. There seems to be a great dichotomy between how the world is presently operating and the kind of stillness in humility that Christ can lead us to. This world seems like it’s getting louder and louder making it feel hard to find a place to be still with the Lord. Personally, I am in desperate need for humility from God. Even though my humility journey has come a long way (going from being an atheist to realizing that I am nothing compared to His glory and holiness), it is still hard sometimes to humble myself before God, trust completely in Him, and know that His ways are higher (Isaiah 55:9). As this world increasingly divides, I hope to have more “intellectual humility” that will give me the empathy and compassion to listen to everyone’s point of view and beliefs.
Thank you for this terrifically-written piece on how we can have humbleness no matter what we are facing.
Michaela, thank you so much for reading and sharing your perspective. It might sound funny to want to “get better at humility” (like, isn’t that the opposite of being humble?!) but I think you are spot on. Jesus encourages humility, an implication of which is that we can get better (and honestly evaluate our improvement). In the context of the rest of the Scriptures and in light of who God is, this kind of evaluation is best (most honest, perhaps) in the context of a community who can lovingly see the planks in our own eyes that we are blind to ourselves. Thanks again for sharing!
Hello Dr. Smith,
I’d first like to say how interesting and captivating this blog post was for me. I have never thought of how big of an impact humility actually has on someones spiritual, mental and social health. As you mentioned, I do think attempting to test humility would be rather difficult just like testing self esteem or any other self-rating subject in human behavior. I’d like to point out how I never thought about the effects that humility has on being able to effectively approach and overcome the stresses of life. This spoke to me directly as I often find myself constantly worrying about life and stressing about many things big or small. After reading this blog post, I have come to realize how much practicing humility could truly change that aspect of myself. Being someone who likes to be in complete control over their life and a perfectionist of many things, I can admit it is fairly hard for me to humble myself before God. While this may be a hard act for me, I can’t deny it is necessary for my own personal growth. Thank you for this eye-opening piece!
Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts!
Ashley, I appreciate you taking the time to share your thoughts. Control and humility have an interesting relationship. I think we think of the opposite of control as release, but I wonder if it’s more like a humble recognition. When God asks us to trust and rest in him, it is in the context of Scriptures that make it clear that what we do matters. We can’t earn our salvation and, at the same time, we are asked to do good works. This requires a recognition that we have power, but there are clear and real limits to our exercise (and control) of that power. That requires humility (understanding ourselves in the scope of the cosmos–and God).
Hello Dr. Smith,
I deeply enjoyed reading this blog and definitely reflected on what being humble and having humility is. I think what I enjoyed the most about this blog is trying to answer the question whether someone is genuinely humble and how do we interpret the statement “I am a humble person”. Over the past four years I can truly say I have never actually put thought into this question because we often hear it as a way of “justification”. When I hear “I am a humble person” I automatically think why you had to justify your statement with those few words. It is interesting because individually we see being humble within ourselves, but how do we know we are humble? I believe you did an awesome job talking about humility and describing that intellectual humility was one of your favorites, and you are right, for some having humility especially intellectual humility it is not as easy as we think it is. Over the course of my teenage/ young adult years I have grown to understand what having intellectual humility is, and if I can say it is definitely not easy. Being able to admit my wrongs and unknowingness has allowed me to feel a sort of peace within not only myself but with God as well. Your blog has a powerful meaning behind being humble and having humility and I am glad I was able to hear, read and reflect on this.