Self-deprecation is not humility. It’s actually quite the opposite. Self-deprecation is the act of diminishing one’s dignity often through humour or sarcasm and we do it all the time. We make fun of ourselves, we put ourselves down, and we sometimes even look in the mirror in disgust after we’ve just achieved something awesome. Sometimes we do it because we actually think that little of ourselves, but often self-humiliation is our way of trying to be modest or humble about our accomplishments and abilities. But is this real humility?
Take for example someone who gets a promotion. Without a doubt, this is something to be quite happy about. Moving into a position with more responsibility, power and pay is definitely an accomplishment and should be a sign of great ability at whatever it is the job entails. This same person, however, might update their Facebook status to announce this wonderful news with something along the lines of: “I’ve been promoted… I hope they know what they were doing when they made that decision.” They may have the best intentions in adding that last self-deprecating part. Naturally, the announcement of such success can be interpreted as being boastful or prideful and so a tendency for some individuals is to play down their success by degrading themselves in some way. We seem to believe that we can’t be that great, or we at least don’t want to sound like we think we are, as if we might offend someone, or simply because we know that people don’t like arrogant people. But is feeling happy about success sans self-degradation mean we are less arrogant? Arrogance is the idea that we are better than others. This fear of sounding arrogant is often the reason why we self-deprecate. But that is not humility. Announcing success may seem to be an arrogant act, but degrading oneself with the intention of sounding less arrogant is delusional. People see through it. Self-degradation, especially when coupled with an announcement of success, is not the same as being humble.
So what are we to do? Well, if the problem comes from the belief that envisioning ourselves as great is down-right arrogant, perhaps that’s what we need to rethink. Perhaps, there isn’t anything wrong with envisioning ourselves as great. I mean, Jesus did say, “be perfect, as your heavenly father is perfect.” That’s something to think about for a minute. Be perfect… Impossible on this imperfect earth, yet why would God tell us to do something impossible? I mean, we’re only human, right? Maybe that’s it…
Humility is simply accepting our identity as human beings. Humility is seeing ourselves for exactly who we are–people born with intrinsic dignity that can never be taken away. Humility is knowing that it does not matter what we do, how we do it, what we succeed in, or what we fail at, we are and always will be children of God made in his image and likeness. Here’s the paradox…humility is answering the call to be perfect children of God.
We definitely overlook that last part—we are made in His image and likeness. In other words, we are made from and for love. We are made with free-will, an intellect, an eternal soul and in short, to be one with God and to be like God…Wait a minute? To be like God? Yes, to be like God. We are made to be perfect! It’s easy to say that we are all children of God made in his image, but if we really understood and believed what that means, how can we delude ourselves to thinking that self-deprecation (after announcing a promotion or any act of success worthy of celebration), is an act of humility?
The true act of humility would be simply acknowledging the wonderful position we were granted and being grateful for it. The true act of humility would be in realizing that none of it would be possible without God, and often, without the help of others. The true act of humility would be in knowing that every success and every achievement we are blessed with are simply moments in which God is allowing us to fulfill what we are made to be—His awesome children. I mean, imagine that. A child of God. To be a child of God is an amazing thing and we do ourselves a disservice and deny God’s awesomeness, when we believe otherwise. So, shut up because you’re awesome, or at least, you were made to be!
This doesn’t mean that humility is to praise ourselves daily as if we are the best at what we do, as if we are actually perfect, or as if we are God himself. That would be delusional. In fact, humility means that we are to remind ourselves that we were designed to be perfect, we are charged to serve each other, we are called to be godly…but we are only those things because of God, and thus we are forever reliant and in need of God to fulfill these destinies. Understanding this would mean knowing that we are not worth more or less than anyone else (that would be arrogance or low self-esteem), but rather, that we each possess a dignity that cannot be taken away and a destiny that can only be fulfilled through humility. In other words, being humble is never forgetting the simple truth that we are beloved children of God.