Humility, Pride, and “Self-Esteem”

Humility is defined as “the quality or state of not thinking you are better than other people.” (i)

Pride is defined as “a feeling that you are more important or better than other people.” (ii)

When we think about the kinds of behaviors/attitudes that are manifestations of pride, they would include conflict, hatred, arguments, disagreement, apathy, judgment, criticism, sin, gossip, unbelief…. Have I struck any chords yet? These (and many others) manifest pride because in each instance the underlying belief is “I know best.”

So often people make the mistake of thinking that the opposite of pride is “low self-esteem”.(iii) But in truth, the opposite of humility is pride. I recently asked the students in my class what the difference was between “low self-esteem” and humility. Those that answered said they were the same thing. When I challenged them to consider that humility and low self-esteem are actually opposites, they were taken aback, as are most people when are when I share this truth.

When a person feels poorly about themselves they typically are quite offended when they are told that their heart issue is pride. To them it is like a slap in the face. Their personal defenses go up to protect “self”. I love the way Beth Moore says it, I have quoted her many times. “Pride is not the opposite of low self-esteem. Pride is the opposite of humility. We can have a serious pride problem that masquerades as slow self-esteem. Pride is self-absorption whether we’re absorbed with how miserable we are or how wonderful we are.” (iv)

Praise God that Jesus died for our pride too. May that alone humble us.

Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up. James 4:10

Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Philippians 2:3

Blessings, Diane

Diane Hunt is a Biblical Counselor, Women’s conference and retreat speaker and author. She serves as the Director of Partner Care and Director of Women’s Ministries at America’s Keswick. She and her husband John have two married children and four grandchildren. She loves reveling in warm sunny climates and playing with her grandchildren.

iii I enclose that in quotes because self-esteem is not a Biblical concept but it is a universally accepted term in our culture to describe a person that has a bad view of self.
iv “Praying God’s Word” by Beth Moore

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