The Science of Humility

Humility has recently been studied by psychologists and social scientists. A study published in the Journal of Positive Psychology looked at helpfulness. Another study published in the Academy of Management Journal considered humility and leadership. Dr. Wade C. Rowatt, associate professor of psychology and neuroscience in Baylor’s College of Arts and Sciences, who led one of the studies states: “Our discovery here is that the understudied trait of humility predicts helpfulness.” Note that the trait has been understudied and overlooked. What did these studies discover?

  • Humble people are more willing to lend a helping hand than arrogant people.
  • Humility is a predictor of helpfulness.
  • Humble people do not think poorly of themselves.
  • Humble people are not insecure, but instead have an accurate view of themselves, understanding their strengths and weaknesses.
  • Humble people are actually comfortable with themselves.
  • Humble people make more effective and better-liked leaders than those who are self-promoting and “wear their accomplishments on their sleeve.”*

That humility has positive benefits should not be a surprise to the Christian. The Bible has much to say about humility.

  • He leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble his way. Psalm 25:9, ESV
  • When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with the humble is wisdom. Proverbs 11:2, ESV
  • The reward for humility and fear of the Lord is riches and honor and life. Proverbs 22:4, ESV
  • I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. Ephesians 4:1–3, ESV
  • Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Philippians 2:3, ESV
  • Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you. James 4:10, ESV

Researchers are interested in whether humility can be cultivated. As Jeff LaBouff, of the University of Maine, states, “If we can increase humility, either in the short term or the long term, we might be able to increase those pro-social behaviors.” As a Christian I believe we can learn humility as we follow our Lord “who humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:8b, ESV).

* – “Humble People Are More Helpful”

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