Struggling with Humility

You remember the song, right? While I haven’t heard it since I was a kid, the words came immediately to mind when I decided to study pride and humility. Go ahead & sing it… you know you want to.

Humble song But seriously…

Defining Pride & Humility

The NASB Life Application Study Bible defines humility as:

“Usually, an honest self-appraisal, characterized by the knowledge that one is merely human and by the absence of pride.”

The NASB Life Application Study Bible defines pride simply as

“exaggerated self-esteem.”

Both pride and humility begin in a person’s mind and eventually become visible in their conduct. Where humility shows through in an absence of pride and arrogance and instead involves being unpretentious and unassuming, pride shows through in a lofty and often arrogant assumption of superiority.

Moving from Pride to Humility

Scripture provides many examples of God both causing and expecting humility.

  • God humbles to reveal the condition of our hearts and to test our obedience. (Deuteronomy 8:2-3)
  • God promises forgiveness and healing to the humble even after grave sin. (2 Chronicles 7:14)
  • God leads toward and teaches humbleness. (Psalm 25:9)
  • God humbles those who don’t fear Him. (Psalm 55:19)
  • God opposes the proud. (1 Peter 5:5)

Resistance is futile. Resistance to humility, that is. Either we choose to let go of pride and to humble ourselves before a Holy God, or we choose to suffer the consequences of opposing God. Willingly choosing humbleness is a much better option that being humbled by God. Just read the Old Testament for proof of that fact.

Choosing Humility

Choosing humility involves taking the road to the cross. It requires following Jesus in attitude, action and word. It requires dying to self. While we may all truly believe that Christ died on the cross for our sins and then rose from the dead in defeat of sin, death and the devil (See 25 Verses About The Defeat of Satan), do we actually live that belief in the same spirit in which Christ made His way to the cross, the spirit of humility?

“Humility is not denying the power or gifting you have, but admitting that the gifting is from God and the power comes through you and not from you.” (Unknown)

Choosing humility involves realizing your value as a redeemed child of God, value from Him and not in any way earned or created by you. It means focusing on what God did for your redemption and then choosing to live that out in obedience by serving Him in whatever way He asks using the abilities, talents and gifts he gives.

Practical Humility True humility comes to us exemplified perfectly in the life of Christ. Applied to Jesus, the NASB Life Application Study Bible defines humility as:

“[Jesus’s] attitude of service to others and His willingness to forego the rights and exaltation that are properly His as the Son of God.”

Jesus’s one focus – to seek and to save the lost – led Him down a path of obedience to the Father all the way to the cross. This involved serving others, being criticized for associating with “lesser” sorts, and submitting to God’s will over His own. With every right for exaltation, Christ chose humbleness. At the very least, with no right at all for exaltation, we can choose to live lives of practical humility as we follow His example by:

  1. Humbling ourselves regularly before God. (James 4:10; Luke 18:9-14)
  2. Being humble in our dealings with others. (Philippians 2:1-11; James 3:2; James 5:16)
  3. Bearing affliction and wrong with patience. (1 Peter 3:8-17)
  4. Submitting to authority. (1 Peter 2:18)
  5. Staying teachable. (Proverbs 10:17, 12:1)
  6. Forgiving endlessly. (Philippians 1:1; 2 Corinthians 4:5; Matthew 23:11)
  7. Staying grateful. (1 Thessalonians 5:18)
  8. Always being willing to work toward trust.

We must, like Christ, be willing to serve others with no thought for what we’ll get in return, never considering ourselves too good for association with anyone as we realize Jesus came to save everyone, not just the socially acceptable.

We must also be willing to give up our own wants and desires to pursue God’s will. Choosing humility does not, unfortunately, mean pride remains forever absent from our lives. We will still continue Struggling with Pride. We will still have moments where pride rears its ugly head, but those are the moments where we can once again choose humility.

DISCUSSION: What does practical humility look like in the life of a believer today?

Be determined. Pursue simplicity. Find balance. Be curious. Be deliberate. Be intentional. Age gracefully. Make the most of every opportunity.


Loren Pinilis
November 11, 2014 at 9:38 am

I think regular practices of seeking humility – regularly looking at our sins, regularly reminding ourselves of our temporal humanity, regularly keeping before us God's perfection and our falling short – these practices help us to practically achieve an attitude of humility. And I think that establishing that attitude is how we can achieve a practical "living out" of humility. If we start focusing on the external behaviors, I think we'll be led astray. We have to start with honestly getting that attitude, and the external behaviors will come naturally.
My recent post Science Confirms the Power of a Biblical Source of Motivation

    November 11, 2014 at 10:24 am

    Good points here, Loren. An attitude of humility is truly the key, and that only comes by getting to Jesus as much and as often as possible. Though, there is something to be said about humble acts as a way of promoting that attitude within us. Sometimes, I find just choosing to humble myself helps further cultivate it. Or, maybe it's the cultivation of a humble attitude that's motivating me to do those acts regardless of feelings. Feelings are my biggest struggle with humility. I just don't always feel like being humble.

November 11, 2014 at 12:10 pm

Hi Kari! I am coming over from Loren's blog.

How hard it is to be perfectly humble. Once I think I'm almost there, I am really the furthest away. I think humility is forgetting self, and living for the Lord and for his people. That's a tall order for me. It's so much easier to be driven by what I want!

But as you point out in your Scripture references, not only was Jesus humble, he demanded that we be like him. So every day it's a struggle. He knows me, and knows my intent. May he give me the grace to grow in humility each day.
Nice to meet you!
My recent post The Beauty in Becoming

    November 11, 2014 at 12:35 pm

    Hey, Ceil! Thanks for coming my way. Good to have you visit! Forgetting self & living for the Lord…. that about sums it up. So thankful he fully knows my struggle and helps me in every way. So even though I continue to struggle, I'm never alone in that. His grace & mercy continually meet me in my struggle! Great thoughts.

November 11, 2014 at 1:22 pm

I just was working on an exegesis of Phil 2:5-11 and it struck me when it comes to the image of humility it is the "abasing or emptying" ourselves. It is choosing to put all others ahead of ourselves. So by that standard I agree with the song, "its hard to be humble" not because I am so good but that its hard to care for others with all the work I need done within myself! But, one look in the mirror is enough for me to discover that by helping others first, I am helping myself to be better, and God gets the glory. Thanks Kari

    November 11, 2014 at 1:34 pm

    The idea that it's "hard to be humble" is certainly true. Putting others ahead of ourselves is so very difficult, especially the more we feed our flesh. God getting the glory is what it's all about, and the more we focus there, the easier it is to be humble.

November 11, 2014 at 1:37 pm

I really like the quote by the "unknown" about acknowledging that our gifts, our life, all our blessings come from God and not from us. We may perform the action, but it is God who created us, who is guiding us, who inspires us. When we give Him credit I believe it helps us stay humble. I think it all goes back to FOCUS and yes, attitude.

November 12, 2014 at 5:57 am

You sure know how to make a person feel old. "When I was a kid." Sheesh! i was in college when that song came out! On the topic though: humility is so hard to have, or maybe to know when it is part of a person's heart and life. It is also a constant struggle.
My recent post DTR

    November 12, 2014 at 7:08 am

    If it helps, the same thing is happening to me now with my kids. Oh, and I stopped at 29, that was helpful too 😉 Yes, humility is hard and a constant struggle. It\’s an attitude we must constantly cultivate.

tc Avey
November 12, 2014 at 1:41 pm

I think humility is very hard for American's to process. Our culture values strength and therefore see's humility as being weak.
But really some of the strongest people I know are humble.

I'm reading "In His Face" by Bob Sorge and he talks about humility and pride. It's a great book. I'm seeing pride in new ways and that's humbling.

    November 12, 2014 at 1:56 pm

    You know, TC, I have had this growing sense that I truly do not know what humility is. I mean, I study it the best I can and write about it to try and process what I'm learning, but I am realizing more and more how I don't know what I don't know. But, I am where I am and must do the best I can in this American culture to understand and live humility. Getting perspectives from those who've experienced other cultures, such as from missionaries, really helps.

      tc Avey
      November 14, 2014 at 12:38 pm

      I know what you mean, Kari.
      While God has been humbling me for the past few years, I still find I'm full of pride and self confidence. Over and over God has to show me that there are more layers of pride that need pulling back.
      Part of my problem is that I'm a "Martha". I'm always busy and sometimes I forget to simply sit and be with Christ. I forget my need of Him. I get too wrap up in tasks and my sense of accomplishments that I forget to focus on God and realize I may not be doing what God wants me to do. And God humbles me in various ways so that I realize my need of Him and that I'm not putting Him first.
      My comment could go on and on.
      Like you, I'm learning about this!

        November 14, 2014 at 12:43 pm

        Layers for sure. And, I think it's an issue with Mary's too. In fact, I know it is. Sometimes I can get so enamored with studying and sitting that I neglect the doing, the showing of God working in me. Hope that makes sense. It's the process of sanctification we're getting at here. Keep returning to the Gospel.

November 12, 2014 at 2:05 pm

Even though your post is about humility, it made me think that about leadership. All of us are leaders in some capacity, and I think we often have difficulty equating leadership with humility. However, the strongest leaders are the ones who don't need to flex their muscle or talk down their followers. They walk with a quiet, humble confidence. Your list above is a wonderful depiction of Christ's life and provides a clear picture of a leader.
My recent post A Parent’s Brief Guide to Recapturing the Heart

Mark Allman
November 14, 2014 at 1:26 pm

"Choosing humility involves taking the road to the cross. It requires following Jesus in attitude, action and word." These words you write are great.

Even in our humility we can cease to be humble when we begin to judge ourselves as being such a humble person. I know I have to watch that I do not become prideful in being humble.

    November 14, 2014 at 1:36 pm

    Not becoming prideful in being humble… that says a lot. Yet, when we focus on Christ and why we are able to do anything, we can achieve victory within this struggle with humility. When we're struggling, that means we haven't given in, right?

November 15, 2014 at 8:51 pm

Humility is a valuable quality in a persons life. I try daily speak words like, "I humble myself before you" or "I can do nothing without you." Speaking those words (I try to do it as often as I remember) allows me to lean toward the humble side and avoid pride. Great post Kari!

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