This is part one of a two-part series on a concept that I draw on time and time again in the counseling room and in my identity seminars. I wrote on this previously, but now I have expanded it because of how vital it is to understand false humility. Sometimes I call it unholy humility.
Listen to me teach long enough and eventually you’ll hear me say, “Terminology empowers you to use the concept.” When a concept does not have a name, or you are unaware of the name, it can be fuzzy or a non-existent concept in your mind—as in, concepts are illusive without a given identity. One such concept that I will give a name and definition to is what is called false humility. If we don’t give a name to false humility, you might never know it even exists. False humility is a mental disposition that cripples people from reaching their potential. There are different definitions of false humility, but the one I am referring to in this article is this:
- when you believe devaluing yourself, or failing to acknowledge the good things in you, is a virtue
- taking a low-profile self-concept when what you believe is less than what is truth in God’s eyes
- being proud of the fact that you don’t value yourself
- failure to become confident, or to reach your potential in life, because you fear the process is prideful
- focusing on your faults and shortcomings rather than on the glorious work God is doing in you, or the work He wants to do, in you and with you
False humility is often a trait of very sincere, good-hearted people. They are so good-hearted that they fail to receive the blessing of what God wants to show them about themselves. They are poor little ol’ me, and proud of it. There is nothing bad about true humility, and there is nothing good about false humility. False humility contradicts God’s promises in your life. It also opposes the work of the cross by negating the glorious adoption as sons and daughters that came to you through the cross.
Keith Blank defined humility well when he preached at our church: Humility is being known for who you are—nothing more, nothing less. The nothing less part is what this two-part series is focused on.
Those who live out of false humility always feel as if they are not measuring up to God. They often feel as if God is disappointed in them.
Many dedicated believers fail to discern the difference between true and false humility. Living in the false will always impede your journey to a healthy identity. False humility is demeaning and restrictive. It is often energized by fear of becoming proud. Please understand, I hate pride, and so does God. But false humility is not the option. True humility is. False humility is a counterfeit of the real thing.
It is not prideful to acknowledge and be thankful for the wonderful things God does through you, and the gifts He has given to you. True humility is able to embrace what is good in us, while knowing full well that “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights” (James 1:17). False humility will not create a platform for you loving yourself in a healthy way. I’m not talking about loving yourself in a worldly, arrogant way, but loving yourself with the same pure, holy, love that God loves us with. The original Greek word for this love is agape. Jesus told us to love our neighbor as ourself. The word love in this verse is agape. This command would not make any sense if you were not supposed to love yourself.
This revelation came to me many years ago. I was one of those who couldn’t embrace the concept of self-love. I would rather talk about self-denial. One day, out of the blue, the Holy Spirit spoke to my spirit and said, “If I love you, why shouldn’t you love you!” That changed my life, brought me into a new level of healthy identity, and freed me up to love others in a new, fresh—and may I say—humble way.
When you love yourself in a Godly way—agape—you don’t require a platform of pride anymore.
Counselors and Strugglers
After reading this short teaching, you may desire to deal with false humility in your life. Perhaps you never knew there was such a thing. Now that you know about it, here are some steps to take:
- Ask God to reveal to you places you have walked in false humility.
- Ask God to reveal to you wonderful things in your life that you have not enjoyed because of false humility. For example, one day I felt from God to stop listing all the bad things about me and take a season to write down all the good things He has put in me and done through me.
- When something is revealed, break your agreement with every lie associated with false humility, and make an agreement with God to believe what He says about you—and not what the enemy says. According to Psalm 139:14, you are fearfully and wonderfully made. Agree with that!
If you are a people helper or a counselor, watch out for what previously you may not known to watch out for—a counterfeit of humility that will limit those you are trying to help to better themselves and follow their dreams. False humility stands in the way of healthy identity development. May God give you discernment whenever false humility manifests.