A Shrink Thinks

Humility is more than a mindset

Humility is more than a mindset
Alan Thomas
Alan Thomas Professor and Consultant in Psychiatry. Elder at Newcastle Reformed Evangelical Church.
04 April, 2024 4 min read

‘Humility is not weakness.’ You may have heard this said too – but what is humility? The opposite of humility is not strength, but pride (Psalm 18:27; Proverbs 11:2, 18:12; 1 Peter 5:5). That points us in the right direction: pride, like humility, is first a mindset, a way of thinking, an attitude of life, which leads to proud behaviour. Likewise, humility is more than a mindset because it leads to humble behaviour. We need to think first about the mindset because behaviour flows from it.

The mindset of the humble is not self-oriented but other-oriented. There is a danger when thinking about humility as a state of mind that we become inwardly focused. The humble mindset is not one of self-examination. This is the approach of the various secular psychologies, whether they are of the explicit self-esteem variety or the indirect ‘analysis by others’ variety. They all encourage us to examine ourselves, identifying our weaknesses and finding our strengths so we can make ourselves better people. We are to pull ourselves up by our shoelaces. So they fail.

But the biblical humble mindset looks at others first and then me afterwards. We do not neglect considering ourselves, but our approach is ‘others first’. This means looking at other human beings and identifying what is good, what is admirable, and what is praiseworthy (Philippians 4:8), and only then turning to consider ourselves.

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