Humility and False Humility

November 7, 2007

I mean this more than my elementary words can adequately communicate, but… humility and false humility are such different creatures.

I’ve experienced it in other people. As I continue to grow and mature, the two seem to become more and more distinguishable. I don’t begin to imagine that my discernment is anywhere near perfection, but the distinctions are becoming more and more defined as I open my eyes and see what is around me. One makes you kind of cringe and the other has an ability to touch you in a deep way. Humility is beautiful. Our hearts were made to respond to beauty.

To see a man capable of acknowledging his weakness and need. To see a man capable of walking in the strengths of the man God has made him without constantly trying to belittle the work which the Lord is perfecting in him. To see a man who knows he falls short. To see a man who knows that he is created in the image of God and that his life is a reflection of that strength and beauty. To see a man who can fail well and succeed well. To see a man who is responsive to the Lord and living in reality.

It is so different from what we usually encounter. Men stumbling about and exerting great effort to hide the truth of their need from themselves and those around them. Men who cannot rejoice in their triumphs for fear of exposing deep caverns of pride in their hearts. Men who spend hours navel-gazing to try to get in touch with the realities of their sinfulness and comprehend their need for mercy. Men who are detached from reality and so busy in their striving that they cannot rest in the perfect communication and loving discipline of an embracing Father.

I’ve experienced it in myself. The scrambling thoughts in my mind as I try to convince myself of my weakness while I simultaneously try to protect myself from the truth of my sin and frailty and need.

So much of it seems to hinge on reality. Becoming a lover of the truth surely involves a great deal of exposing our false humility. We continually learn of the depths of our need for God and for the community of believers. We go deeper in an awareness of our sin and wrong thinking. Our hearts are opened to the revelation of who we truly are… in the eyes of the One who knit us together and who sees us rightly… whose vision is not marred. The One who actually stands as judge… the One whose opinion (i.e., perfect perception) actually counts.

Truth and humility make good companions. Hope and humility make good companions. Gratitude and humility make good companions. Acceptance of and confidence in God’s steadfast love and faithfulness, as well… they walk in close fellowship with humility.

I want to live in truth. I want to stop holding hands with the lies in my life that would tell me I am more able than I am… the lies that fuel my self-righteousness and stubborn attempts to independently save and sanctify myself. I want to stop cuddling with the lies in my life that tell me I am hopeless, worthless, unloved, and unlovable.

No wonder I am so confused. I am so busy balancing and maintaining this fragile framework of unreality — a hefty dose of “I’m not worth it,” and a dash of “I’m so much better than anyone realizes.” It’s so difficult and consuming to keep the structure from collapsing that I miss the truth that God is constantly speaking over my life. As weaknesses appear in the structure, I look to others to help me reinforce it. I look to others to tell me of my worth when He has never relented from communicating His unfailing affections and genuine enjoyment of me. I look to others to define me when He has been continually speaking the truth of my identity over my life.

I think I’m going to let the whole thing come crashing down. It’s about time. I think I am going to cease from all of that striving and listen to the voice of the One who loves me and knows me so intimately. I think that I am going to stop scrambling and just rest and hope and trust in Him.

I think I am going to like that.



  1. One of the things that I love most about W. Blake is that he so gets this. One of his proverbs is that “humility is pride’s cloak” and in his longer poetic works, a key theme is the way that the accuser goes about peddling false humility, looking religious and righteous and all this is intrinsic to his plot to control. On the other hand, true humility is bold, fearless and infused with a holy violence. I also read in WB this need, as you say, to let the false self come crashing down.

  2. yes! i was just thinking about this yesterday. james ryle (early vineyard) said this in a meeting once and i never forgot it. “humility is agreeing with what God says about you.” when he says you are a sinner and there is nothing good in you- say yes. when he says you are his child and he has great delight in you – say yes. (the last part is a paraphrase of what i remember)

  3. God be with you, then, along with his grace and leadership.

    that was a seriously stirring entry… you shoud consider submitting it to Relevant or something (even if you’re one of those “i hate Relevant Magazne” people, it’s still a great resource for some superb articles about God and godly living.).

    the whole false self way of living really has gotten old for me as well. I am learning (baby steps…) to embrace living without such an umbrella, too. it’s scary, but the rewards are infinitely worth it.

  4. Amen.
    And… wow, thanks! But I’m a long way off from ever having the confidence to submit anything I’ve written to/for… well… anything.

  5. This is the heart of a wonderful girl on paper…I think it would make great reading for all. But, only she can decide that.
    I remember reading once about the stages of our understanding. These stages are as follows:
    I don’t know what I don’t know (I don’t know who I am)
    I know what I don’t know (I know who I am not)
    I know what I know (My knowledge creates a sense of accompishment)
    Then finally, I don’t know what I know.

    This final stage sheds some light on our attitude as truly humble people. It seems to me to be a place where we lose self conscious thought amidst vunerability or perceived harm, and our pretense and reflections are seen in the light of His perspective of us. But, this has already been said so well by someone else in a much clearer light…the article written above.
    I wonder how much of our lives can actually be lived in the place of God consciousness and not self consciousness? True abiding!

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