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Humility: More Attractive than Wealth, Status or Botox

We tamed the heartless giant in part 4 of this series. For the next ingredient in our recipe for a good marriage let’s add:

A generous portion of humility …

I spend so much time writing about narcissism that today I thought it only fair that I give some time to it’s opposite (and positive) quality instead.

Humility is one of the least understood virtues – but when it comes to having a happy marriage, is one of the most important.

What is Humility and How is it Best Developed in Our Nature?

This question has undoubtably been studied by theologians in history more than scientists or scholars.

But church isn’t always a good place to go looking for humility.

I am sad to say a large many women who come to Steve and I for help (with the private abuse they suffer in their marriages) are married to pastors and ministers.

The pulpit it would seem can be an occupational hazard for a person’s ego and sense of entitlement and superiority.

And psychological dysfunction is not limited to the pulpit: praying about how lowly and worthless we are before God (as I have often heard people do in church), is probably just as unhealthy as an overweening ego.

It seems that in searching for the steps necessary to develop humility, we enter a hall of mirrors just as complex as when we start trying to spot our own selfishness and egotism.

For to begin the development of humility in ourselves, first we must recognize how important we are.

Because just as I highlighted in our story last week …

Our conscience knows what is right and how much there is on this planet that needs doing and that we are all really here to help each other. But unfortunately our instinctive and passionate emotional nature often waylay us in the heat of the moment.

Back to religion: I have never quoted religious texts on this site before but today I want to share what I have recently learned about humility from The Book of James. And so first I feel I should give a bit of an explanation for this to my readers who are not Christians.

I grew up with a father who was an American fundamentalist protestant (who voted Republican) and a mother who was a non church going Australian, Church of England (Democrat), and so I learned very early that outside of church or the class room there are good reasons you don’t talk about religion or politics!

My work has, and always will be science based, but I believe the study of human qualities and particularly ethics (such as humility) and social problems based on immorality (such as narcissism) are subjects that historically, as much as in the present day, must by necessity draw on religious and philosophical wisdom.

So as not to offend anyone or create unnecessary religious prejudice or debate I could simply reword the information I want to share with you today without giving reference to it’s source, but how humble would that be and who am I to claim to be an authority on humility?

And more importantly, who can claim to be an expert on humility?

It was my search for an answer to this very question that brought me to the author of The Book of James in The Bible (not the apostle James) as a very intriguing historical personality.

No one questions that James was most likely the brother of Jesus, or that Jesus actually gave it to James to carry on his ministry when Jesus departed.*

None the less James’ role as a teacher and church leader was eventually taken over by Peter and Paul (a man who never met Jesus) as founders of a church that sometimes put more emphasis on the divine authority of Jesus’ representatives on earth than the teachings of humility and service to our fellow men that the early Christian church was founded on.

If you are interested in my sources for this claim and much more information about Jesus’ brother James – I suggest you watch the very interesting BBC series The Secret Family of Jesus with Professor Robert Beckford.

There is also some historical evidence that Joseph of Aramathia and Jesus brother James were one in the same person.

That is a controversial claim and I suggest you watch the movie linked above (if you are interested in learning more about James from a historian who really loves him) and you can decide for yourself if you want to believe that claim – but I should explain why I felt it important to mention this here …

My point is that Joseph of Aramathia was a tin merchant and traveller and a very wealthy and influential man – and whether he was one and the same man as James, Jesus’ brother, or rather Jesus’ uncle — as is more commonly taught in history — James and Joseph were at the very least very close traveling companions. Yet James taught unequivocally the very lowly role that the rich play in this life compared to the poor.

So if we can leave all religious differences aside – lets for a moment look at The Book of James as a historical document written by a man who could easily have put himself above the people around him by reason of wealth, occupation and genealogy, yet didn’t.

The Book of James was in fact left out of The Bible for many years – perhaps because its teachings on humility irked the scholars, theologians, monarchs and church leaders who continued to use wealth and privilege as a means of asserting their own status and divine right to rule over others?

So in my simple layman’s interpretation – lets see what the brother of Jesus and teacher of early Christian values had to say on the subject of humility …

1. Consider it pure joy when you face trials in your life – because trials teach you perseverance, which is necessary for you to fully mature and be complete as a person.

2. The poor should take pride in their high position in life and the rich in their low position, for the glory of wealth is as temporary as the beauty of a wildflower.

3. That all true wealth comes from above (so is spiritual in nature and based on qualities of character) and not from material possessions.

4. That we should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to anger.

5. That we should constantly watch our tongue so as not to judge or gossip about other people.

6. That we should not show favoritism or give priority to people who are wealthy or privileged.

7. That we should know and accept that we will be judged by other people — and so do our best to be a good person — while at the same time keeping a vigilant watch on ourselves (and our tongues) not to judge other people.

8. That we should not emulate wealthy people, for they are the people who most often exploit the vulnerable.

9. That rich oppressors should weep and wail (and presumably ask forgiveness and make restitution) for hoarding their wealth and not fairly paying the people whose labor they exploit to make them wealthy.

10. Don’t swear oaths but simply say yes or no to what you will and will not do. (Note: James says this is the most important advice he has for us).

11. Do not grumble about each other.

12. Confess our sins (wrong doings) to each other and pray for each other, because truly wishing each other well is what will cause our own healing.

Okay so there is probably a lot more I could find in this incredible historical document, but there is certainly enough personal development work here to get us started and on the right track for most of a lifetime.

In such astoundingly good advice – is there really anything I can add to this?

Not much more than James says himself which is that it is not enough to talk about it or think about it – instead we really need to do these things.

The only thing I would personally add is that it is the selfish and narcissistic side of ourselves that puffs itself up – but deep down in reality this part of us truly fears that we are worthless.

Because in reality it is only when we accept just how important and urgent our work is on this planet that we get in touch with our true humility. Yet no matter how important (and I would even say vital) the work that is in front of us is – still we are not here to put ourselves above anyone else.

Instead we are here to help each other in the right way. And although we will often be judged by people who can’t see our hearts true motives, we should still do our best to genuinely wish the people around us well.

James says the reward for this is being “lifted up by God”. That is a euphemism that has probably lost some meaning over time: but back to behavioral social science and neurobiology – these kind of empathetic actions and the self monitoring and reframing involved in the advice James gives – will certainly cause us to form deep and long lasting attachments to a few people we will hold dear throughout our lives – even if some other people put us down and don’t understand us.

So whether you are looking for the “crown of life” (as James calls our reward for this work), or simply a great home life and marriage – the daily practice of humility is a step you should not overlook in your personal development.

How many of us try and emulate the rich? I suggest instead we look to establish a ‘new style’ in respectability.

More on that soon but for now …

in the now historical and memorable words of Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure,

“Be excellent to one another.”

* Correction: As was pointed out to me in the comments here – the Catholics do dispute that James was Jesus brother and believe he was a cousin of Jesus instead. What I really should have said in this paragraph was that no one disputes that it was James (who Jesus called his brother) and not the apostle James who was the author of the book of James in the Bible.

 

Kim Cooper

Kim is the author of seven books on the topic of relationships and emotional intelligence.

A prolific multi-media content innovator, Kim has created and shared a library of articles and multi-media educational tools including radio shows,
movies and poetry on 'The NC Marriage', and 'The Love Safety Net'.

This Post Has 54 Comments

  1. Kim,
    Steve was right, I think this message is brilliant!
    I will save the message and re-read and remind myself about the importance.
    Thank You Kim!

  2. Kim thank you for this article – it is amazing how everything meets, science, psychology, ethics all different religions – once you touch the truth you know it ! thank you for being there and reminding us what is important !

  3. In Judaism, we are taught that the most humble man who ever lived was Moses. He spoke to G-d and was the leader of the Jewish people, so how was this possible? He knew his place in the world, what his realistic capacities were, his positive and negative qualities…he was present

  4. Beautiful! And you dont ever need to be apologetic.for using scripture! God is the ultimate authority over us and cares more about our relationships than anyone. It was His priority that we love one another as we love ourselves. Thank you!

  5. Dear Kim,
    Thank you for a wonderful article. What a fascinating story of Jesus’ brother James. I think it’s great that you advocate developing discretion about who and what a real ‘teacher’ is. That is disturbing to hear of the private abuse of spouses by people who are publicly recognized as teachers/leaders, and only by virtue of being ordained as such by their own ‘club’. No great shock sadly, but great that you raised it because, for me, it raises the question ‘who is it REALLY, under the robes?’. Do they, as an individual really KNOW what they are speaking of. Meaning – as you say – do they live it? Do they DO it? And how can we develop enough discretion to be able to see who is standing in front of us. Then we can be more free of manipulation and bullying when we can see which emperor has clothes on, and which doesn’t!
    I think you might enjoy the story of Lakshmincara the ‘Princess of Crazy Wisdom’ who was one of 84 ‘everyday people’ teachers called mahasiddas who were Buddhist masters who lived a normal life and didn’t ‘do robes’. Lakshmincara renounced her royal title when she realised the prince she had to marry had personal values which she couldn’t reconcile with her own. She left the palace, lived in the forest and eventually became enlightened. The royal palace declared her insane. A cleaner from the palace recognized her wisdom and asked her to teach him, and eventually he became enlightened too. One day the prince she was supposed to marry sought her out and saw her wisdom. He asked her to be his teacher, but she refused, saying that there was a wiser teacher than her nearby and that he should go to him. It was the cleaner from the palace. The prince’s teacher was his own toilet cleaner! Fortunately the prince had the humility to see this man for who he was and not by the label society had put on him, and so acquired a great friend and teacher.
    So many stories!……. I love them.
    Thank you for your work!

  6. Kim, I thank you for a though-provoking article. However, I wonder where you feel is the dividing line between being humble and letting other people take advantage of your good nature? I freely admit, I am more the co-type, always thinking of others before myself and trying to please, with the result that I usually end up with bullies or narcissistic types, but my dad always told me (since you have talked about your own dad!) “Don’t behave like a doormat – people will walk all over you”! Even before I had married the first time he could see what my tendencies were… So. I’m rather puzzled and feel your post has raised more questions than it has answered…

  7. Humility,very difficult to live it in a normal daily life,much more difficult to live it in a marriage. We strive to get acknowledgement for everything to boost our ego,but Kim I have learned from your wisdom that I have overlooked humility altogether thank you for the positive approach towards handling a narcissist, there is hope lets pray and stand together to fight the disease.

  8. Hey Kim, Steve was right! Awesome article. The last one about the heartless giant helped me so much. And this one about humility put it all into perspective! Truth well spoken again. I am finding as I practice these tried and true virtues instead of being all wrapped up in my own negative emotions there are positve changes being made. Taking this on is so healing for us and for those around us. We really CAN make a difference! Real, honest, humble LOVE is the answer…from the beginning of time and all through out history.
    Thanks Kim!

  9. Wonderful article!! I emphatically agree that humility is THE most important quality any human can posses!! However, is there a way for someone to learn to become more humble. It’s so difficult these days, when the general population worships the wealthy, celebrities and beauty as being more important than almost anything else. Therefore making it all that much harder to be humble when we encounter these traits in most people we deal with daily. Is there some way to learn or practice to become a humble or more humble human being? I guess anything worth possessing is never easy. It requires hard work and preserverance. Any practices or ways to daily train ourselves to become more humble? I know there are no easy answers. I’ve recently become a more humble person, trying (daily) to let go of my ego and asking God to enter my life and help me do his work, not mine….mine hasn’t worked so well thus far. I guess I’m looking for daily affirmations. I try my best an feel I succeed alot of the time to stop judging others, accepting them as they are, because they are also here for a reason…or God wouldn’t have put them here. I don’t have to agree with their choices but need to accept that we are all different and that’s okay!! However, I still struggle to maintain the humility I found one day when I let go of past resentments and forgave people I felt hurt me in some way. It was incredibly freeing!! And the resentment was gone and I began to appreciate the good that person or persons had given me, how they helped me. But it’s difficult to maintain… for me. As my husband is a narcissist, often I am upset, hurt & embarrassd by his lack of empathy or care about others. Believing he is better than, and therefore deserving of special treatment just because that’s what he believes. We have VERY differing views on almost everything. Most of which I can overlook and it doesn’t bother me. But when it comes to things I am passionate about, I find that resentment raring its ugly head everytime he speaks against my deepest beliefs. I usually hold my tongue, but there are times, not as much as before, that I am hurt insulted and angry that he can at times be so callous. Keep them comming, Kim!! 🙂

  10. This article raises a number of important points. Over the past 50 years or so it seems that “self-esteem” has been elevated as a new virtue whilst humility has been downgraded. Often I think people with an excess of self-esteem are downright arrogant and mean to vulnerable people. What are your thoughts Kim?

    1. Hey Gerard – Yes I think that self esteem is sometimes very badly understood. As with most truth – self esteem contains within itself a paradox. Because to truly have esteem for ourselves we must also be able to face and sometimes outwardly admit to and acknowledge our own shame. This can present a dilemma for teachers and parents who are sometimes very scared of ‘shaming’ their kids. I think that the question to ask is, is it the kids we are worried about or are we simply uncomfortable with dealing with the shame in ourselves? I do not advocate humiliating or insulting anyone, but if a child has done something they should feel ashamed of – I do think it is important that adults show the child a pathway to acknowledging that shame in a real way. And that if they do, as uncomfortable as that feels, they will most likely be forgiven. That is a tough lesson and one that most people need some help with. We also need to see that we will probably only be forgiven once and people might not be so understanding if it happens again! This is because, if we have truly faced and embraced it, shame is a great teacher and will probably stop us making that same mistake again.

      If the lesson of regulating guilt and shame isn’t learned — then it is more likely a person will get in the habit of covering their shame with false pride and blame. This is developmentally where narcissism begins and right on topic with the main subject of this blog.

      So in brief I would say a person with high self esteem – but an inability to face and own up to their own feelings of guilt and shame – will undoubtably become someone who is arrogant and probably also looks for scapegoats to blame their unregulated negative emotions on.

      The important thing to remember however is that the pattern of using arrogance and blame to try and douse our own shame is much easier to see in others than it is to face in ourselves!

  11. Hi everyone and welcome 🙂 and thanks so much for all of your kind words and encouragement.

    My individual answers to comments are below …

    Rebecca – That is a wonderful story you shared and a perfect tale of humility. I think many people here can probably relate to the injustice and reactivity of the palace declaring Lakshmincara insane. And what a great ending where the prince becomes the student of one of his cleaners. That is humility and wisdom indeed!

    Jill – Yes it is a fine line but this is where learning emotional intelligence comes in. The historical writing of James I am referencing in this article says be slow to anger – not that anger in itself is bad – just that it will not bring about the right way of life. Our books teach that anger is a very important signal to yourself of when you are being taken advantage of, and that this signal should not be ignored. Learning to (1.) heed the message – but wait until we are calm and in the right frame of mind (rather than acting upon anger in the heat of the moment) and then (2.) decide what action needs to be taken and (3.) Find the courage to take action and set the boundaries that are needed to be secure in our life, is what our work here is all about.

    Diane – I think the list in the article above includes very practical steps we can take towards practicing humility daily in our lives. The anger and frustration you feel with your husband on the other hand are not bad things on their own. It is learning to heed these signals and know how to regulate them that is the challenge. The steps to do this are outlined very clearly in our books.

    — This work of humility is hard to do! I started working on this article earlier in the week and boy has it been a tough ride. I was struck by the bit in James where he says that we should ask God to take our joy and laughter away and make us miserable for how selfish and double minded we are. That verse really struck me. How strange to advise people to ask God to make them miserable. But then pondering this I thought of my own teachings in the Love Safety Net series (on understanding your emotions) on guilt and shame. Guilt and shame are very underrated emotions and when embraced are just about always the vehicle that brings about major transformation in our lives. So in this context asking God to make us miserable makes sense – and James says that if we do this, afterwards God will ‘lift us up’. So that really sounds like transformation doesn’t it? Asking God to make us miserable about how selfish we are is such a turn around from what we normally wish and pray for in our lives. But I have experienced and embraced that aspect of personal development work in the past – and the complete transformation in my own life was undeniable.

    Anyway I might write more about not being scared of embracing guilt and shame when I get done helping Steve with the series on masculinity he is about to start recording. Such an exciting project that is! I can’t wait until it is ready to share!

  12. The priest at my father’s funeral spoke on humility and how my father was a talented yet humble person, and how although we often hear of the benefits of being a confident person, we seldom hear of the benefits of being a humble person.

  13. Lovely article, actually reminds me of the movie Bruce almighty, which I think had a similar message

  14. The points from James are significant. It reminds me of another bible passage that says to “look at the log in your own eye instead of trying to take the speck of dust out of your brothers”. Like you have often said – working on ourselves is a key factor rather than trying to sort or fix others. And, I believe, divine intervention is so needed to change the matters of the heart. And having an awareness of what needs to change is a good start. I really enjoy your articles Kim.

  15. Kim, sorry, but I have to take you to task for something religious. You said, “No one questions that James was most likely the brother of Jesus, or that Jesus actually gave it to James to carry on his ministry when Jesus departed.” The Catholic believers out there, which are very numerous around the world!, do not believe that James is the brother of Jesus. I have been taught that the words for brother and cousin were interchangeable at that time. And we believe in the perpetual virginity of Mary, which means she had no other children. Also, I am pretty well-informed in my faith, and I have never heard of Jesus giving James the “head” of his ministry to carry on. So what you said there is also not something uncontested. Peter is given the keys to the kingdom of heaven, no? Stating what you believe is fine, but also stating that no one argues with you is not fine. It’s not even close to the truth that everyone agrees with these points you made, and it’s not ok for you to say that everyone agrees with you.

  16. Also, about the books of the Bible like the Book of James getting taken out of the Bible… the protestant reformers (Luther) took out some books from both the new and old testaments, including the Book of James. Later, I believe, in more recent times, many Protestants have restored the new Testament books, but still the old testament books that were removed by Luther are missing, or placed in an appendix.

  17. For some dates, the Bible was “finalized” around the year 400 AD, after some wrangling. This bible included the Book of James, and was used for the next 1100 years by all Christians. Then Martin Luther, around 1520 or so, deleted some books from both the old and the new testaments. Thereafter, there was a “Protestant Bible” and a “Catholic Bible”. The Protestant Bible, I believe, in recent times, has added back in the new testament books that Luther deleted.

    1. Hi Tanya, *Sorry I worded that very badly and should have said, “No one contests that it was James – who Jesus called his brother – and not the apostle James who was most probably the author of the Book of James.” The Catholic belief that he was in reality Jesus’ cousin (because Mary was a perpetual virgin) are all discussed in the documentary that I linked to in this article called The Secret Family of Jesus. It was also put forward in this series that Jesus originally passed his ministry on to James – but I did not understand that there was any conflict of opinion regarding this. My object here was not to offend anyone but rather to present James as a person who it would appear lived by the same tenants of humility that he taught, despite being rich and having a potential claim on being recognized as being divine – or having divine authority – himself.

  18. Real humility is simply agreeing with God and His truth. In the Bible it says that Moses was the most humble man who ever lived. Guess who wrote that? Moses did! No ‘false humility’ there! 😀

  19. Fantastic article Kim and brilliant comments by your readers.

    Humility is something Ive recently alighted upon through the step work Ive been taking as part of my membership of my local coda group.

    And it is hard very hard especially when for years I have very powerfully associated it with feeling small and ill with anxiety.

    In the early stages it seems as if it is the pathway right back to letting people walk right over you all over again. And I will confess to falling back into that mindset even though I now understand better that isnt the case in truth.

    Practicing humility day by day is the only way to know it and understand its power. But I will confess I have found it hard excrutiatingly so at times becuase it has left me feeling exposed and very very vulnerable. Sometimes it feel like a death and when I am in that place I want to resort back to the old ways so I can feel big and strong right and righteous.

    However I do believe in a god a truely loving god who is on my side and who wants me to succeed and to thrive. It is this loving power I lean on in my darkest times as well as the powerful support from my coda group and the love I feel from this site reading your inspiring articles.

    Despite the trauma however it is truely worth it becuase in those moments albeit brief when I have got to a place of experiencing a real sense of humility I feel free. The nonsense Ive made so important is of no consequence the montage of monsters I have made of others simply disappear and instead I see weak and vulnerable just like me and rather than being passive and weak I feel resilient freer to choose how I act and truely invincible, even when I face the thought of dieing.

    Keep on trucking Kim and love and good wishes to all

    1. Hi Geraldine, Thanks for your insights. I guess I have come to see humility more as an active force rather than a state of being. Rather than worrying, “Am I getting above myself”, instead I now try and remember to ask myself, “Have I taken time to put myself in the other persons shoes? Am I thinking about the people that need me in my neighborhood or am I only courting the rich?”, Or even, “Am I letting people help me who will feel better about themselves from doing that?” In this way giving or receiving assistance from others can be equally humble acts. James says something to the effect that it is not good enough to wish someone well – if you leave them with nothing to eat and no roof over their head.

      So in this humility there is every power. I can no longer imagine myself like some teenager seeking to indulge my own fantasy expectations of life. There are families to be helped and the old and young to care for and so much work that needs doing everywhere I look. Once that would have exhausted me and I would have played small in leaving those problems to someone ‘more capable than myself’. Now I see that I am vitally important – even if that is just in keeping my garden watered and neighborhood in good spirits from taking the time to give all I meet – human plant or animal – a little bit of attention and respect.

      So maybe that could take me back to feeling big and strong and right and righteous – but I don’t think so. Once I wanted to save everyone – but now instead I think that there are many things outside of myself that need and deserve my attention and time. And of course facing my own guilt and shame when they arise … And that BTW doesn’t mean living in guilt – research shows that about a minute of really facing our shame is usually about right. Then the transformation occurs as the silver lining emerges. And then far from feeling we must denigrate ourselves to be humble — instead we feel supremely connected again with all the love that is in the world.

  20. Dear Kim, I am a Christian myself and have been for a long time, but I am always taken aback at how vicious some Christians can be when they believe they are defending “truth.”
    I think most everyone can remember an example of having a disagreement about some point of doctrine or scripture, and then being labelled and attacked. This is not the love of Christ in action.
    I can only walk away from these people because I am so tempted to react in the same manner.

  21. Hi Kim and Steve as always you are fruitfull. Something i have experienced over and over along my journey in life is that something good always comes out of something bad, no matter the depth of devistation caused by the trama, no matter how evil, or crule others actions or reactions are, no matter of anger or hate, its been my experience the very moment we relinkquish our control over the negative impact of the trama, good will and love in all forms will follow.The only difference in all my experience is time, the time between the tramatic event and its fruitfull return, when the good is gained. Love begins inside each of us and is the key to our greatest self. Without it we mearly exist but with it comes a fruitfull life. Love yourself from the inside , be willing to embrace our sense of responsibility for our mistakes and keeping true to this aquired wisdom
    turns wrong to right. And brings the good out in us all. Thank you and all you do to teach of your humility its a tool used to improve your lives and the lives of those you touch. You both have touched my life. Im greatfull to have friends in you. Love and good will Janine

  22. Kim, I always find your articles on character qualities and the practice of loving a spouse, even a difficult and selfish spouse, so helpful. I am amazed at the depth of insight you share, so bypassing all the psycho-babble of our day and cutting to the chase, which is, to not give up on selfish people and walk away, but work on ourselves and learn to love, dare I say, like Jesus does. I found myself needing this wisdom in the last year, so tempted to walk away from a hurting spouse who needed my help not my blame, even when he was hurting me. Your work is so helpful!

    The only quibble I have with this article, is when you get into saying you don’t want to discuss religious things but then stating counter-arguments against established religious understanding as though they are well-known facts.

    Peter and Paul didn’t take over the church from James, etc. Peter was one of Jesus’ very intimate followers, one who saw Jesus’ transfigured on the Mount of Olives, saw Jesus’ glory first-hand, and even so betrayed Him, was restored.

    James, as Jesus’ brother, according to the gospel didn’t believe until after Jesus’ Resurrection, but none-the-less was one of the early apostolic leaders of the church, called “old camel-knees” because of his hours spent on his knees in prayer, a leader of the Jewish Christian church in Jerusalem I believe.

    And Paul did see Jesus: he had a vision on the road to Damascus and turned to Jesus completely, spent 3 years in the wilderness being taught through the Holy Spirit, and had so much humility that he renounced all his claims to fame as a very learned Pharisee and brought the gospel to the despised Gentiles.

    All three of these men were in their natural selves betrayers of Christ: Peter ran and denied Christ at the crucifixion, despite having vowed to defend him, James didn’t believe until later, and Paul persecuted Christians and thereby Jesus Himself through His followers, before turning to Jesus and giving His life to follow and share the Life of Christ with others.

    The point is we’re all like this in ourselves, it’s only through excepting Jesus and His life that we have life within. James is teaching that if we love Him, we have to show it. And through humility, as you share.

    I am very sad that your experience of the church was muddled and not very sweet in the sense of portraying and bringing life to you, although, I sense all through your teaching a basic orientation toward Jesus and toward His life within.

    I just wish sometimes you wouldn’t present off theories as though they are established truth, as the real nugget of God’s gospel is saving us from our sin and from our own anger and actions of denying others life, our basic orientation of self-worship instead of God-worship and Jesus life. The problem with the church, I’ve heard it said, is also it’s strength: it’s filled with sinners. But only sinners know they need Jesus 🙂

    However, the main point of your article is to shout out for humility, and I love that you say at the beginning, usually you’re slaying the dragon of narcissism, so it’s time to give a little attention to it’s opposite trait, humility. I never thought of those as opposite traits, but you’re right, they are.

    It’s Pentecost Sunday today, celebrating the coming of The HOLY SPIRIT, God’s gift of the Comforter to the church, the indwelling Christ. Surely that’s humility Sunday, too 🙂 God bless your long and at times lonely ministry and work, we pray for you and Steve, too. It’s always under attack, the work you do to shout out to people to stay married if they can and love each other more than we can on our own do. In Christ Jesus, MB

  23. Margaret I agree with everything you said. Kim and Steve have been a huge part of the restoration of our 35 year marriage after years of verbal abuse, physical abuse, infidelity, restraining orders, and pure hell. I went to my church and Christian counselors for help and experienced further trauma. I am not angry. These well meaning people were simply ignorant to the dynamics of disfunction regarding narcissism-codependency. And unfortunately, the church draws its share of narcissists into the pulpit. This experience has truly opened my eyes to all of it and now it is easier to spot these behaviors in others. But I believe God is leading me through this difficult path for a reason. I have learned to depend on Him in a way I never would have if life were so easy. I have learned to face my own part in the tragedy. I can show compassion to those who carry the stench of narcissism and codependency because I am it. When people know you love them deeply regardless of their mistakes it changes the world. This is Christ love. It’s time we love others with true compassion knowing how deeply God’s love reached into us and called us into His family. Being a doormat and fearful is not love and that is how I lived for too many years. Thanks Kim and Steve for showing so many helpful ways to love the unlovable.

  24. Hi everyone and again thanks for all of your kind words and well wishes.

    I have included links to the references for my statements (and hope those links help to get across my understanding of them) in this article. I certainly do not pretend to be a religious scholar 🙂 I do suggest that anyone reading this watches the movies I have linked to before taking further exception to my claims.

    And to Margaret – I did not say I do not wish to discuss religion – simply that I am cautious in doing so because I know that as a subject that can create very emotional responses and conflicting opinions. But mostly my concern is not wanting to alienate my non Christian audience (whose non-belief I respect as much as I try and respect anyone else’s beliefs). If my understanding and beliefs are counter to established religion in a way that bothers you I am happy to discuss that. I am very interested in the knowledge you have to offer – but I don’t think I have contradicted myself in the way you claim I have. I don’t see a problem with people outside of an established church doctrine or belief system being interested in or discussing religious history. And yes Steve and my ministry is rather lonely sometimes – but not really when you see all the friends and support we have in the comments here! Being on the outside of any established institutionalized belief system (scientifically, academically and spiritually) gives us a lot of freedom of thought and expression that I doubt I would ever trade for peer support! Rather than lonely I would say the problem of us being outside one or another established ‘school of thought’ is much more a financial one 🙁

    Hopefully you can enjoy that intellectual freedom we hold dear as a breath of fresh air rather than a challenge to more established belief systems.

    And please do not be sad for my experience of the church! I often find that people who are deeply involved in an established church feel that something must have gone wrong (or muddled as you call it) if the mainstream institutionalized church environment wasn’t what I found right for me.

    But then you might recall that Jesus himself was once in a very similar situation!

    I don’t think anything went wrong with my religious upbringing. The pain of my parents emotional dysfunction and the resultant challenges that created for me in my life was the painful part of my childhood. My parents different beliefs and me being part of, and then leaving (the church I was raised in), has given my education about life and different people’s beliefs a breadth and scope it would not have had otherwise.

    So saying all of this about myself may not sound very humble – but this is a part of my article no one has commented on yet. Which is that I see humility as realizing our own unique importance – to the point where we see just how imperative it is that each and every one of us choose a humble life of dedicated service to one another.

  25. Humility is such a huge part of the narcissistic/codependent story. We have up until recently been bombarded with the notion that “narcissists lack empathy”. Kim’s article above is a wonderful reminder that perhaps what we ALL may lack is humility.
    Taking time to think about this has been very helpful for me.
    Kim’s point 5 in the article is very profound. We must not speak of others badly or gossip too readily. In my life, I have been too ready to slander, gossip etc. If I think about it, I probably do it daily.
    If I could get through a day/week/month without speaking this way, I am sure I would be a better man.

  26. Hi Kim,

    I am one of your non Christian readers and the fact that you are outside of any institutionalised belief system as you say, either religious, academic or scientific, is what you gives you such personal integrity and credibility and was what attracted me to your work. I don’t want to follow any leaders or be part of any club, group or institution. I want to walk on my own. Many years ago i got into a very unhealthy situation with a man, who i ended the relationship with, when one day ‘the light bulb went on’ and i saw he was just looking to play games and didn’t want to grow. He did not want to change and that was absolutely his decision, and one that must be respected i think. i didnt end the relationship, i didnt have to, he sort of ‘drifted away’ and i let him. i just watched it all unfold and didn’t fight it. i realised that you really can’t ‘save’ anyone, and that trying to do that puts a flag above your head that marks you out as ‘fair game’ for abusers/players because of the essential arrogance of thinking you can save anybody else! There is an arrogance in co dependency i think. I think it is so patronizing that it must be hard for narcissists to resist thinking – “if you’re that blind/naive, then you deserve it”. I have a disabled friend who regularly has people trying to ‘save her’ and she ‘takes them to town’ every time! Has them running around after her like slaves. She’s smart as a whip, and a little vindictive, but I can see why she does what she does! Someone trying to save you feels horribly patronizing.
    Margaret – I am sure that your intentions are good, but for non Christians like myself it feels very uncomfortable to be ‘prayed for’ for the same reason as my disabled friend finds it offensive when people do things for her that she can do for herself, without mutual consent. Non Christian people don’t need Christians to pray for us. I don’t want to be ‘saved!’ (That’s what got me in that unhealthy situation with that guy in the first place!) But we do benefit from skilled educators with lived experience, like Kim, and I read about James with great interest as a non Christian because it opened up the point Kim was making and helped me understand something. Organized religion has never done that for me. Psychology has, occasionally. Science quite often. But mostly, dialogues like this have helped me.

  27. Dear Kim,
    I love James! And his history is interesting. As interesting as it in its own right, I think it is a diversion from your primary subject–humility and its applications in our lives. I think you should leave it out of your text for that reason.

  28. Sorry Kim,

    As an atheist this article is completely, totally and utterly lost on me. I also know plenty of wealthy people who do not go around exploiting people (they pay people who work for them money for doing a job) and poor people who are only too happy to exploit, deceive and manipulate others – drug addicts would be a classic example.

    Which books other than James (apocrypha) have been left out of the bible then?

    The raw nerve this article touched for me is probably one of the reasons why invoking politics and religion is best avoided.

    Otherwise I love your blog and will continue to read.
    best,
    Gary

  29. Hi Kim and Steve, great blog. Humility is such an interesting topic. In relation to religion I was brought up with this idea from very early as part of a Catholic upbringing. It was something we were taught throughout our lives and was a Christian quality we to strived to attain. I loved my parents dearly who were good humble people and I looked up to them. I discovered recently though that as you say confidence and humility can be a tricky thing. I used to think I practiced humility until one day when I realised my whole life has been affected by fear, shame and failure and the inability to cope with judgement and criticism from others.

    My father did not accept failure well in himself or others and would outwardly show great confidence as many men do. As kids we were very fearful of him at times which he regrets. In his older years though he has told me that inside himself this was not the case. He said he is actually shy, not great with people and shouldered intense worry and stress as a worker, father and husband for many years. My mother often put herself down and would shy away from doing many things in her life even though she was very intelligent. Looking back now at times she seemed sad underneath even though she would put on that beautiful smile.

    Your article has reminded me of the true meaning of humility. I think Mum would be proud of me today to see I have learnt that humility should not be a burden to carry and so I will continue to practice being a wise human being as apposed to being a perfect human being.

    Wish me luck and thankyou again!

  30. Hi everyone 🙂 My apologies to those who think I should have left religion out of this – I do however write from my own personal experience and religion is certainly a part of that.

    And too Claire – thank you for bring the conversation back to the topic and sharing a little of your own experience of humility.

    Yes I certainly do think think that humility is misunderstood. For me the only way I can really get to the essence of it is to remind myself to stay focused on the work in front of me rather than focusing on myself.

    For instance Steve and I had a fight the other day while we were putting up curtains – because he got upset that I had taken charge and wasn’t happy about him doing things the way he wanted. After things had calmed down – the next day I said “Okay do you have any idea of what this job is going to look like when it is finished?” He admitted then that he didn’t. So after I gave him the vision of what I was trying to do, I said “Now that you understand what I want your help to achieve, I will be a lot happier to hear your suggestions of how you think we should do this – but I hope you can respect my ideas too and be prepared to discuss it if we have a different idea”. So after that it went smoothly because we were both focused on the job in front of us and not so much on ourselves or each other.

    Backing down and letting him have his way – when he had no idea of what I was trying to accomplish would not have been humility.

    So this is just an idea of how staying focused on the importance of the work in front of us and giving that work our best can help us (at the same time) to be humble but also stay true to ourselves.

    The worst of us on this planet still do a great job of teaching others – even if it is simply by being an example of what not to do. So who am I that I so easily judge other people?

    So when I catch myself doing this I try and remember to stop myself and once again refocus on giving my best to the challenges that have been handed to me.

  31. Hi Kim I always think of the song ‘oh lord it’d hard to be humble’. Society these days especially with women encourages the opposite but let’s be honest when it comes to marriage ‘ pride definite comes before a fall.’ It takes a lot of humanity to genuinely listen to our partners and not think we know better. Thank you for the tmely reminders from the scriptures to help us keep our egos in check. I for a long time was afraid to be humble because I felt it was the opposite to standing up for myself and I dIdnt want to appear as weak or let others take advantage of me. I’ve learnt that it actually takes a lot more strength to be humble and sometimes just let things go. Our strength is demonstrated by our actions and if Gods son could get down and wash his disciples feet then all of us do well to remind ourselves not too think we are superior to others. Pride gets in the way of many things especially our own personal development. It’s only when we humble ourselves that we are open to others opinions and lookIng at the world from a different perspective. Narcissism is actually the opposite of humility so it makes so much sense for you to be talking about this subject. Lack of humility is often nothing more than a defence mechanism to hide or refuse to face our own insecurities of being imperfect human beings. I’ve learnt that it’s only when we humble ourselves to face reality that we can understand who we and work on who we want to be as u and Steve have done. You r both fine examples of humility yourselves. Take care and keep the advice coming:-)

  32. Hi Kim,- Steve told me to add to your blog..

    I have a situation that I’m not sure about
    and I would like your input. I have been back with my sons father for almost 5 years. He had another child at 47 with someone that is 16 years
    younger. She likes to text a lot ( and still does) and was in the past sending pictures.

    Getting to the point..She has had her son’s b-day
    party on her own and we on ours for four years.
    This year He (the father) is going to go to his party without me. I really am not upset that he is going but I do have a problem with her, she has no problem trying to cause issues.I believe she puts her son up to asking him to go. I have brought this to his attention. She is in a relationship but he works alot, firefighter,. She has a total of 3 ex’es at once and then her boyfriend that she deals with.

    I think she likes to be involved with all of her exes lives and doesn’t see anything wrong with it. I personally don’t like it when they text
    a lot. It’s not everyday but when they do they are texting back and forth quit a bit in each situation. She talks about her boyfriend, kids, his kids, what she has to do..nails, hair, workout..etc

    I need a different perspective on this…. He doesn’t see anything wrong with how they are handling this. Whether its the birthday parties or the communications between them. Should he be going to his sons b-day parties and I am not invited. I am not allowed to go with when he drops his son off or picks up. I’m not allowed to go with to his sons games either. He says he is uncomfortable.. Kim, Let me know if I am wrong in this matter…Thank you, R.D.

    1. Hi R.Dee – as they share a child you do not want to come between them but on the other hand you do not want to be treated as a second class citizen. This is going to take some time and patience and I would say look at it again once you have worked through all of the exercises in 10 Steps to Overcome Codependence and The Love Safety Net Workbook.

  33. Hello all,
    I’ve been quiet for quite some time (things were going well and I only tend to access this blog when things go badly and I need inspiration!). This was a helpful blog for me to read today, thank you.

    However, as I have written previously, I think getting religion involved can be dangerous when you are aiming to get your message out to as many people as possible, many of whom are likely to have differing belief systems to you. Even though I’m a (small c) christian (I believe in God and Jesus but have some serious issues with many of the church’s ‘rules’ and behaviour) I still found myself grappling with some of the religious references, and it distracted be from the main message. I also grapple with some of the comments, as blogs like this seem to attract the kind of comments along the lines of ‘don’t apologise for using religion, Kim, God is the one and only true God and Jesus is the only way..’ – very non-humble for a commenter to claim their religion is the only ‘right one’. Do people who believe this honestly think that a person born in South East Asia for instance can’t possibly go to heaven unless they abandon the beliefs they were born and grew up with and become Christian??

    That being said I do understand that it was hard to avoid religion when you wanted to use a bible story to make a point. Maybe a blog about a non-religious (or non-Christian) role model one day would be nice to balance it out? If that is an area of interest to you. They certainly exist.

    The other thing I wanted to say was that your example about the blinds was very helpful. I often find that while the underlying concepts all make perfect sense, I often struggle when trying to apply them. Particularly when I say or do something and my N responds in a way that throws me and I don’t know what to do next. When he draws me into one of those bizarre arguments that are about things that happened 7 years ago etc. I get all confused and philosophies and values go straight out the window! Real life examples of day-to-day conflicts are soooo incredibly helpful. You may not want to air all your dirty laundry, but if you wouldn’t mind sharing some of these things from time to time I’d be very grateful. I would imagine others would also benefit?

    Also, please don’t think I’m criticising, I’m actually saying your blog is too valuable for it to be only accessible to Christians, or people who are willing to read about Christian beliefs (and risk being told by commenters that their religion is not valid!).

    1. Hi MD,

      Yes I agree and this is why I usually avoid it and I agree that unfortunately a lot of Christians don’t practice humility. A good example is a recent survey of how people felt about religious comments by sportsman. Most people didn’t have a problem with Christian team members praying after games – especially if they prayed together with the other team etc. however what people did object to was when they claimed that God had been with THEM on the field – given THEM the victory etc. I mention this just as something for my Christian readers to think about – as what is common place in their community can come across as very arrogant to people outside of that community. Back to my post – I really do usually stick to that rule it was just that I had just been learning about James and his advice did seem so relevant here. I would love good examples and role models of people who have both practiced and taught about humility from any and every walk of life! As for more scripts you are right on target! I am starting work on a bunch of new content at present and a book of scripts to help people with their repertoire of comebacks is one of them!

  34. Thanks Kim. Really looking forward to the scripts – not just comebacks, but that sort of example with the blinds, ways to approach issues and how to broach things after a fight.

    I find that after a fight I walk on eggshells or just avoid the issue, as he gets so moody and down that I’m afraid if I say anything it will all blow up again – and in fact that has happened many, many times. Even if I wait over a week that can happen. And his perspective is often so selfish and immature that it can get very frustrating to try to talk to him. The fights are often also about his own paranoid thoughts and issues, so that there really isn’t anything much to say or sort out. But then he keeps telling me “we can never talk about things”, and “you never raise anything”. So it would be good to have some ‘role plays’ that would be relevant. Thanks!

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