Humility is Not an Emotion

Article by: Steve Cornell

Humility is sometimes associated with quiet, less outgoing or passive personalities. But this could be very misleading.

Misunderstanding humility is risky because this quality is essential to one’s relationship with God.

  • “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble” (I Peter 5:5).

Jesus established humility and unconcern for social status not only as the psychological structure of His kingdom but also as a basis for entrance into it. (see: Matthew 18:1-3).

Thinking deeply about humility

  • “Humility is not itself an emotion, like joy or gratitude or contrition.”

  • “A person could be a wonderful exemplar of humility without ever feeling humble; in fact, one who frequently feels humble is probably not very humble.”

  • “But humility is a disposition not to feel the emotions associated with caring a lot about one’s status. It is the ability to have my self-comfort quite apart from any question about my place in the social pecking order (whether the criterion is accomplishments, education, beauty, money, power, fame, or position).”

  • “Humility is self-confidence that runs far deeper than the tenuous self-confidence of the person who believes in himself because others look up to him.” 

  • “Those who need to excel others to think well of themselves— who seek value at the expense of others —who try to climb to honor by using others — who construct their glory upon the shoulders of weakness found in others— who engage in the ‘dangerous business of building self-assessments on watching to see how they’re doing in comparison with others, — those who live this way are — in some profound sense — actually degrading themselves and, far worse, cutting themselves off from both God and people.”

  • There is something in humility which – strangely enough — exalts the heart, and something in pride which debases it” (Quotes above from: Spiritual Emotions, Robert Roberts).

Who is the greatest in the kingdom?

“…the disciples came to Jesus and asked, ‘Who, then, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?’ He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me” (Matthew 18:1-4)

Jesus said, “Unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”

  • Self-humbling is required for kingdom entranceverse 4 – “Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”

  • Humble hospitality is a test of the heartverse 5 – “And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.” (Mt. 18:1-5; cf. Lk. 18:9-13).

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