Humility vs Insecurity

photo by antonseidler

photo by antonseidler

I've been struggling a lot lately with discerning, for myself, the difference between humility and insecurity. I often confuse the two and end up in a mental black hole of shame, confusion and guilt instead. Tim Keller, a well respected Pastor here in NYC, says that "Humility isn't about thinking less of yourself. It's about thinking of yourself less." But what does that look like internally? And how do you even begin to put it into practice? 

As exhausting as it feels at times, the truth is that the only way to learn to discern between the two, and the only way to learn to believe you are worthy enough to practice the courage and compassion you need to live out a humble life, is to dig into scripture and pray to God for help. It's a slow process. Painfully slow for an impatient person like me. 

Still, I think it helps to have examples of how to recognize what insecurity (which often shows itself through unintentional outward pride) and humility can look like in life:

Insecure pride comes from self-doubt and personal anxiety and often results in saying or doing the very thing you are working so hard to "fix."  

  • It sometimes comes out through bluntly or insensitively sharing one's opinions in conversations in order to feel significant and heard. 
  • It sometimes shows in choosing not to speak up around others due to an insecure fear of being wrong or uncertain or a fear of being vulnerable.
  • It creates knee-jerk reactions of self-protection and defensiveness.

Humility, or humble confidence, comes from knowing who you are in Christ. It comes from believing that you are a child of God, uniquely created and called to a vocation and mission for your life that uses your individual voice, heart, and gifts.  It starts with an understanding of grace and believing that you are saved and deeply loved.

  • Humble confidence has a posture of listening and a desire to hear one's story; offering advice comes from a desire to encourage and strengthen others.
  • It gives us the strength to invite honest feedback and evaluation; a willingness to be held accountable. It also allows us to draw boundaries with others and ask for what we need in return.
  • When we are confident in who we are in Christ, then compassion and grace towards ourselves and others starts to become a way of life.

The challenging and confusing part of all this is to recognize your patterns and catch yourself before insecurity takes hold. "Did I say that because I was insecure, or did I say it because I was trying to help in a healthy way?" "Should I speak up because I believe this friend isn't making the wisest choice or should I just listen and let them grow through the process of learning this on their own?"

It's not an easy process. But we're in it together as a community. Humility is one of our core values and something we all need extra support with sometimes. Here are a few more articles and verses to help you study and start to grasp the difference between insecure pride and humble confidence in your own life this week: 

An article for leaders 

A look at humility from the Jewish perspective 

Bible verses on Humility 

Humility in the Psalms 

More verses on humility