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Humility and Humiliation

December 5, 2023

When I was in high school, I was embarrassed of my old, beat-up car.

The more I accelerated, the louder the noise, inviting everyone within earshot to look and see me in the driver’s seat. I still remember what it felt like to have the heat rise to my face as I pulled into the school parking lot each morning. I wondered who was going to see me and felt humiliated.

As a 30-something dad of three, I’m not as easily embarrassed as I was when I was younger. With a little more life experience and a depreciating desire to be cool (let’s be real; that ship sailed a long time ago!), I don’t sweat most of the small things that used to bother me. But that doesn’t mean I’m immune to humiliation. 

Now (I’m ironically embarrassed to admit), I feel embarrassed when my children don’t behave the way I think they should. In these moments, I am not thinking about how to correct them to help them grow, I am thinking about how I can get them to do what I want them to do so it will reflect well on me.

I know that’s prideful, and I need to work on it. Yet, this struggle perfectly illustrates what this blog is about: In life, you can either have humility or humiliation. 

In other words, the degree to which you are humble has a direct correlation to how easily you are humiliated. As you reflect, you’ll find the areas you have the most pride are the same areas you are most set up for humiliation.

In high school and now, I am prideful about the way I am perceived. I want people to think I’m great, so I am humiliated by things in my life that could negatively affect someone’s view of me.

What humiliates you? 

The difference between humility and humiliation is that one is initiated by you and the other is initiated for you.


Humiliation is something life initiates for you.

You’re humiliated by your Walmart wardrobe while your colleagues wear designer brands.
You’re humiliated by your ignorance of a topic everyone at the water cooler is discussing.
You’re humiliated because your idea for a new product was rejected by your supervisor.
You’re humiliated because your budget for Christmas this year is smaller than your friends’.

And what you’re humiliated by reveals areas where you need to grow in humility. The good news is we can grow

Humility can be initiated by you. Here are three practical steps toward humility:

1. Don’t take yourself too seriously. You are human. You are going to make mistakes, and you need to learn to laugh at yourself. Life is too short to be overly-concerned about the way you’re perceived. 

2. Think about other people. Like C.S. Lewis said, “Humility is not thinking less of yourself. It’s thinking of yourself less.” Actively redirect your tendency to be focused on yourself to be focused on the good of others.

3. Understand what you can control. Humiliation often comes from the pride of believing we have more autonomy and control over our lives than we do. Understanding where you can affect change and where you can’t can help you grow in humility.

We all need to grow in humility. Understanding this connection between humility and humiliation can help us pinpoint where we need to grow right now and take intentional steps toward humility. I’m challenging you (and myself) to take the first step toward humility today. 


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