What is true humility?

We know that God resists the proud and gives grace to the humble. So what does it mean to truly be humble?

What is true humility?

True humility is being willing to give up everything that comes from myself in order to be obedient to God, and do His will. True humility is the attitude that I can learn from Jesus: “Not My will, but Yours be done.” Luke 22:42.

Choosing to do my own will – living according to my own desires, reasonings, and opinions – rather than God’s will, is pride. Choosing that over God’s will is essentially saying that I know better than God. This inevitably leads to works of the flesh, because then my actions are not Spirit-led. (Galatians 5)

True humility is to bow myself to the Spirit’s leading, and the result of this will be that I bear the fruit of the Spirit. I can think that I have some good ideas, some wisdom, some intuition, all human traits, which are not wrong in themselves. But I have to bring them into subjection to God’s will, when “my plans” are at odds with God’s will.

True humility in simple things

This can be in simple matters; for example, maybe I really want to tell someone off. My human wisdom tells me that they deserve it, even that they need to hear what I have to say for their own good. But the Spirit points out that it’s actually because of my own ego – the sin in my own flesh – that I’m tempted to respond in that way. Then I have a perfect opportunity to humble myself and give up my own desire in the situation. Then I can respond with love and goodness instead, and I see how much better of an effect that has.

When I am obedient to the Spirit then I bear the fruit of the Spirit. This is God’s will for me. Then if there are times when it is necessary to exhort, or even reprimand, someone, I can know that I am doing it out of love for them, and by the leading of the Spirit, rather than according to my own sinful reactions.

The same can be said about the many day-to-day decisions that I have to make when I am tempted. I need to obey the leading of the Spirit, rather than react according to my human impulses.

True humility in the big decisions

It is the same for the big decisions of life. Perhaps I have a very natural human need for a relationship, for example. Perhaps this need is so great that it is pushing me to something that isn’t right for me. Can I then humble myself and bow down before God and say, “Not my will, but Yours be done?”

His Spirit will speak to me about what is right and wrong for me, but if I am disobedient, I will start to become deaf to His voice, until I no longer hear Him to know what I should do. This is because God resists the proud.

But when I submit myself in obedience to His guidance for my life, and trust in the Lord with all of my heart, then He will lead me in the path that is right for my life. Then I will find the grace to come to rest in my need and live joyfully, contentedly, and thankfully, trusting in the conviction that His will for me is perfect, because God gives grace to the humble.

“But He gives more grace. Therefore He says: ‘God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble.’” James 4:6.

All of my plans can be submitted to God. If I push ahead with my own plans and ideas, ignoring the Spirit’s working in me to go a different direction, then my pride will lead me onto a path that is not from God.

True humility defined

Choosing to submit and be obedient is the definition of true humility. To admit that I do not know what is best for myself. Only God knows that, and He will reveal that to me when I seek His guidance.

But humility does not mean that I should be timid and inactive. I am to be an instrument of righteousness in God’s hands. I can’t do that with my own “wisdom,” but when I give that up then God can impart His wisdom to me and use me as necessary for His work. The key is to do what God requires of me and submit to His will.

“All that you say to me I will do.” Ruth 3:5.

This is humility. Such deep humility has to find grace before God’s face. A person with such an open and upright mind as Ruth is destined for something great. People with a proud attitude never hear God speaking to them, because He resists the proud. But those who are humble, and with an upright heart want to know God’s will in order to do it, receive grace and God can speak to them.

“By humility and the fear of the Lord are riches and honor and life.” Proverbs 22:4.


You may be interested in reading more on our topic page about humility, or in the selected articles below:

Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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The New Covenant and the Mystery of Lawlessness

The New Covenant is a personal covenant that we make with God, in which we commit ourselves to obey all His will and in return He commits to equip us with everything we need to do this. The mystery of lawlessness is that most people explain away this part of the grace that Jesus delivered to us, and instead turn the grace of God into a license to sin.