False humility is subtle. It masks pride. That’s why it is so easy for us to think we are walking in humility, but we aren’t. It’s always good to check ourselves and ask God our motives and if our actions are lined up with His.
What is Humility?
the Biblical definition of Humility is “the personal quality of being free from arrogance and pride and having an accurate estimate of one’s worth.”
18 Signs of False Humility
Sign #1 A person operating in false humility uses religious terms to justify cruel or questionable behavior. It’s a smokescreen for pride.
Sign #2 Self-Righteousness is a sign of false humility. The Pharisees probably thought they were operating in Godly confidence, but they were, in fact, belittling others and exalting themselves higher. The Pharisees approached God with false humility, exalting their righteousness and good deeds above God working in them. This type of false humility shows up in a works-based Christianity. For example, I’ve seen it in someone who knows the Bible forward and backward. It’s not the knowledge that makes them falsely humble; it’s the heart posture that they are somehow MORE righteous than others who don’t know as much as they do.
Sign #3 People operating in false humility will listen to others only so they can speak into their life. They aren’t listening with loving interest and expectation to learn and grow. There’s an agenda that serves the person.
Sign #4 They will admit small sins but ignore major sins, all about appearing pious and righteous.
Sign #5 When in false humility, the person can’t take a compliment. Women do this quite a bit. When someone compliments their appearance or achievement, they respond with a demeaning comment about themself like: “You mean this old thing?” or “I look awful! Or my personal favorite and one I’m guilty of when someone comments on how clean my house is, “Oh! Not it’s not; it’s filthy!” knowing full well that it really is pretty clean. You may think that shrugging off your achievements will make you look more modest, but in reality, it will actually make you come off as more arrogant. The solution? Just say thank you.
Sign #6 Another signal you could be falsely humble is always negatively commenting on your appearance or behavior. Many do this because of insecurity, and they are eliciting a complement. And then, when they get it, they revert to the tactic I just mentioned. When we demean ourselves, we are actually demeaning God.
Sign #7 Do you change your voice when you want to appear a certain way to others? It could be false humility. Changing their tone and adopting a humble, submissive tone while saying proud things.
Sign #8 Someone who professes love for God and others but acts rudely or cruelly, especially when they don’t think people are paying attention. I’m not talking about a bad day. I mean that they “put on a mask” but then drop it when they don’t think anyone will notice.
Sign #9 Believes that self-denial (asceticism) leads to holiness. This looks like CONSTANT repentance over and over and over again for the same thing. Another way I’ve seen it manifest is by constantly referring to being a sinner. Yes, we are flawed, but this is more about appearing pious than about true repentance.
Sign #10 False humility is saying “I’m sorry” all the time. It’s another one women tend to do more often. We say “I’m sorry” for practically everything we do. “I’m sorry I’m taking so long. I’m sorry I’m asking so many questions. We say “I’m sorry” when we need to get around someone when “excuse me” works just fine. The heart behind it is the appearance of being submissive or lower.
Sign #11 Another one is saying, “I know you’re busy.” It may sound good, but it’s really a false humility at work. This is false humility because you are essentially saying to the person, “I know you’re important, and I’m not.” It’s also a bit manipulative and passive-aggressive. The end goal is to let the person know that they don’t give them the attention they think they deserve.
Sign #12 You are operating in false humility if you pretend to be generous and giving but are really self-centered. I’ve seen this when someone gives or serves to get something in return. I usually refer to this as “having strings attached.” The person isn’t doing it out of kindness alone, even though they will profess that they did. You know this is you because when the person doesn’t reciprocate, and you get angry. You may also drop hints to the person of the perceived wrong or let others know how ungrateful they are. I find that when people do this, there’s a lot of rejection wounds.
Sign #13 Self-defeating mindset, over-critical, or belittling one-self. Says things to others like, “I’m a failure. I can’t do anything right. No one likes me. I’m nobody. I have nothing to offer. You’re so much more gifted than me.” It’s an attempt to lower themselves in front of you, but they are really insecure and are fishing for a compliment.
Sign #14 You might be falsely humble if you are excessively modest. I’ve seen this when someone compliments a person or congratulates them, and their response is, “Oh, it was all God.” In some cases, this isn’t a bad thing, but if it’s ALWAYS the stance, then it could be false humility at work. Again, it gives the appearance of being righteous, but pride is the hidden root. A simple “thank you” is all that’s necessary sometimes.
Sign #15 A people pleaser does whatever others want regardless of the wise or the right thing to do. It may seem good and righteous, but people-pleasing is actually false humility. It may APPEAR that they submit to authority, but it’s an extreme form of pride that manifests in false humility.
Sign #16 Being overly dependent on what others think is a sign of false humility.
Sign #17 Those who are quick to claim credit for a job done well but throw you under the bus whenever there is a problem.
Sign #18 A person pretending to be humble might say a halfhearted “sorry” but stubbornly continues down the same path.
And my personal favorite and a tell-tale sign EVERY TIME…People who spend a lot of time telling you how humble they are. There are probably many more that I’m missing, but this will get your heart open to hearing from the Holy Spirit.
Prayer for Freedom from False Humility
Since false humility is a twisted form of pride, the prayer for freedom is the same. We just change one word. Say the following prayer out loud.
Lord. Search me and know my heart. Show me any areas of false humility in me. I confess and repent that I have opened the door to pride in my life through false humility.
(Confess and repent for anything revealed)
Thank you for setting me free from the bondage of pride. I ask you to renew my mind. Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Lord, cultivate meekness in me and give me the grace to walk in genuine humility. I declare that I have the mind of Christ, and apart from you, I can do nothing. I declare that my mind, will, and emotions are submitted to the Lord.
Encouraging Truth Declarations
- Declare these and any other scripture the Lord gives you over yourself.
- God has declared me not guilty because Christ has freed me and taken away my sins.
- I am a new creation in Christ. My old life and old self are gone.
- Christ lives in me. My trust is the One who loved and sacrificed for me.
- Christ calls me His own and gave me the Holy Spirit.
- God welcomes me into His presence.
How to Cultivate Humility
Humility is one of the hardest for many of us to develop. It begins by recognizing that we aren’t always right or have all the answers. It also requires a person to accept who they are, which is a challenge for most. Many of us don’t know our identity, and this is where pride can have fertile ground. Part of defeating pride and putting on a garment of humility is understanding WHO WE ARE in Christ. Here are some tips for cultivating humility in your life.
- Pray. Ask the Lord to cultivate meekness in you and help you walk in humility.
- Humility is knowing WHO you are and WHOSE you are. Finding your identity in Christ and inner healing help. It’s time to weed the garden. Once you remove the weeds choking out your identity, you’ll start to see what the Lord planted within you. It will begin to flourish, making humility much easier to wear.
- Stop talking. Spend time earnestly listening to others. Don’t listen to respond. Listen for understanding.
- Recognize your flaws. Allow Holy Spirit to help you work through those areas that need improvement.
- Admit when you’re wrong.
- Praise others and give compliments. Focus more on praising others than lifting yourself and your accomplishments up.
- Practice thankfulness in your life. If your focus on the blessings, you won’t feel the need to feed your insecurities. Write them down if you need a reminder!
- Accept setbacks. Let yourself be humbled by your experiences. You aren’t the best at everything, and that’s OK!
- Invite feedback from others. Listen to the feedback openly and be grateful for constructive criticism.
- Ask for advice. Don’t be afraid to admit you don’t know something. Give someone a chance to share their experience with you. You’ll keep a teachable heart this way.
- Understand the language of pride and false humility. Take the thoughts and actions captive and submit them to Jesus to help you transform.
- Go last. You don’t always have to be the first in line for everything.
- Read Luke. You might want a highlighter for this one. There’s so much in Luke that you can glean from Jesus how he lived and interacted with others.
- Value God and others above yourself. Remember, this isn’t thinking LESS of yourself, but thinking of yourself LESS. None of us are greater than the next.
What other ways do you cultivate humility in your life? Looking for more inner healing and freedom topics? Check out my past posts. Comment and let me know.