Is there such a thing as forced humility?

One of the things I really admire about the western world is the confidence that is instilled to the children from a very young age. This easily shines through in their ‘older’ years. I am always amazed at the confidence with which they will deliver at just about anything; you can be in a meeting with a much younger guy, who probably knows much less than you do, but I promise you the confidence with which they will deliver, for a few minutes there you will think they must be older and more knowledgeable at the subject! This is perhaps one of the reasons why many are convinced that most people from the western world are more knowledgeable on all subjects.

This always amazes me. I used to go for meetings and be amazed at the ease with which such young people will make presentations. From my world, I listen first. And when I talk, well I am more whispering than I am speaking – my natural instinct for whatever reason is to shrink! My excuse, I grew up knowing you let elders speak, you never interject, and therefore I am a good listener instead.

I know very many people who have struggled with this, especially those working in the west. Good at their stuff but the selling part, the convincing part, the part that needs conversation well not too good. Unfortunately in most careers at some point the conversation part matters more than the knowledge part – harsh reality. So you will find many of my kind slackening, just because of this thing I call forced humility!

Culture influence

Don’t get me wrong, I totally know the benefits of humility. I totally know there is a place for humility and submission. However I have found myself in the recent past wondering if there is also a thing called forced humility, more often than not arising from a lower self-esteem?

A couple of months back I was reading a blog post from someone who was explaining why we should not have a problem with ‘selling’ what we do as Christians, he called it self-promotion. I remember thinking what is this guy talking about, self-promotion, really? This elicited a lot of reactions but what stood out for me is one comment that said that our reaction to this notion of ‘selling’ what we do is highly influenced by the culture we come from.  That was very true, without much of an effort, I could easily pick up who the Americans were from their response and who were likely to be from an African setting.

It also reminded me of a church that had banners all over Nairobi for the ‘dedication of the largest church in East Africa’. I remember cringing and thinking ha? It got me thinking, is it okay for me to say something like ‘I have great organizational skills’….rather than the more common one of ‘when God helps me I have great organizational skills?’ I see this a lot, I hear it a lot in myself. I am told I am a great writer and my quick response is it’s just by the grace of God. Is this what humility is all about?

Light of the world

Culture aside, it got me wondering, what would Christ have us do? These verses were in my mind.

 “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”

I suspect there are no quick answers to my thoughts, or perhaps I have not gotten the quick answers, what I hear is MOTIVE.

These thoughts have taken me to 3 other teachings in the bible, oh how I love that the bible is such a LIVING word, it has something to say about ALL my struggles. I have false humility in mind.

The first one is Elisha. Elijah is about to be taken away and he asks Elisha what he can do for him before he is taken away. Elisha replies that he wants a double portion of Elijah’s spirit to be on him. Wooo, he did not just ask for a double portion of the spirit Elijah had? What happened to the humility that says whatever you want I will take? I can’t help but wonder if I would have been bold enough to answer this question with such an answer or I would have beaten about the bush pretending to be humble and eventually settling for ‘as you please good sir’!

Then there is the blind guy of Bartimaeus who Jesus asks what he would like from Him. The blind man’s response was on point; he wanted to receive his sight. I love the boldness with which this guy goes straight to what he wants. No beating about the bush. His response makes me wonder if I beat about the bush with God. Does He ask me what I want and I start saying I want a good day, when want I truly want is a husband! Do I find myself needing to look together with God or am I vulnerable enough to say, Lord I want a job, Lord I want a husband, Lord I want a child. Do I use force humility to say I want whatever you want Lord?

The king of forced humility

Saul. Could Saul have been the ‘queen’ of forced humility? See this man when he was anointed King of Israel, his response was:

Saul answered, “But am I not a Benjamite, from the smallest tribe of Israel, and is not my clan the least of all the clans of the tribe of Benjamin? Why do you say such a thing to me?”

Saul truly saddens my heart, he does. I find myself so many times wishing this man was not anointed of God, that he was a king who lacked the Spirit of God in him. But he was. I read the effort that Samuel goes into to anoint him and I know this guy was anointed of God. I guess the reason this hits me is maybe it would be easier to accept that he was just an evil man from the word go who did just bad things.

But he was not. When he was anointed he even saved people from being killed, people who had put him down. So Saul was a man like me really. A man anointed by God to be king, a good man. So what went wrong I wonder? What caused this man to be soo about sacrifices that obedience to God came second? What made this man such a jealous guy that he would have killed David just because he was more popular? What made this guy so dependent on approval that he could not wait for Samuel to deliver a blessing, that he took matters into his own hands? What made this man so ruthless that he kills priests and men of God as he searches for David. Who was this man? What went wrong? The answer is in some small detail in 1 Sam 15

Then Saul built an altar to the LORD; it was the first time he had done this.

Somehow Saul became about himself. Somehow the initial humility did not translate to a search for God.  You see Moses responded in an almost similar manner as Saul when God sent him to rescue Israelites from Egypt. Gideon’s response to his calling was also quite similar. But what I believe distinguishes these great men with Saul, is they take to heart what God tells them ‘I will be with you’. They are secure in who they are in God. They will stand before kings, they will fight big battles because they know who they are in Christ – they no longer live but Christ lives in them.


So all these ring tititiiii moments in my ears. Warnings of how harmful forced humility can be. Warnings of how assured of my identity in Christ I must be. Warning of how anything else will just defer my destiny.

But also warnings of how I must spend time with God. I believe this is where any source of security comes from. I believe Saul’s greatest undoing is in the verses above; that he gave an altar to the Lord so many years into his ministry rings such a warning. That spending time with God was never a priority for him. That he got so self absorbed that what seemed like humility fast became about self. The thing I am convinced is we can be just about anything; we can be the worst of the worst; but for Christ. Spending time at the feet of Christ is our only hope.

So to a week at His feet!



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