*The Summer Reading Series is designed to equip our growing community with curated book recommendations that can shape faith and sharpen cultural insight.

Humilitas: A Lost Key to Life, Love, and Leadership  | Summer Reading Series
Excerpt from Chapter One: What is Humility and Why Does it Matter?

Humility does not mean humiliation, even though both words are offspring of a single Latin parent (humilitas). Nor does it mean being a doormat for others, having low self-esteem or curbing your strengths and achievements. Jim Collins’ work reminds us it is possible to be humble, iron-willed and successful, and they frequently go together. 

Having strong opinions is no hindrance to humility either. One of the failings of contemporary Western culture is to confuse conviction with arrogance. Humility, rightly understood, is a potential antidote to the hateful political and religious rhetoric we often hear: Left versus Right, Christian versus Muslim and so on.

I want to argue that the solution to ideological discord is not “tolerance” in the post-modern form we frequently find it, the bland affirmation of all viewpoints as equally true and valid but an ability to profoundly disagree with others and deeply honor them at the same time.

Humility is the noble choice to forgo your status, deploy your resources or use your influence for the good of others before yourself. More simply, you could say the humble person is marked by a willingness to hold power in service of others.

There are three key thoughts in this definition. First, humility presupposes your dignity. The one being humble acts from a height, so to speak, as the “lowering” etymology makes clear. True humility assumes the dignity or strength of the one possessing the virtue, which is why it should not be confused with having low self-esteem or being a doormat for others. In fact, I would go so far as to say that it is impossible to be humble in the real sense without a healthy sense of your own worth and abilities.

Second, humility is willing. It is a choice. Otherwise, it is humiliation. 

Finally, humility is social. It is not a private act of self-deprecation—banishing proud thoughts, refusing to talk about your achievements and so on. I would call this simple “modesty”. But humility is about redirecting your powers, whether physical, intellectual, financial or structural, for the sake of others. 

One of the earliest Greek texts on this topic, written about AD 60 to the Roman colony of Philippi, puts it perfectly: “In a humble frame of mind regard one another as if better than yourselves—each of you taking care not only of your own needs but also of the needs of others.”

Summer Reading Series
Humilitas: A Lost Key to Life, Love, and Leadership
John Dickson
HarperCollins Publishing, 2011

Today’s Readings
Joshua 4 (Listen – 3:31)
Psalms 129-131 (Listen – 2:03)

Summer Reading Series
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