It seems that humility is often defined in terms of how one subjectively feels when in the presence of another. If after spending time with Mr X I feel assured, comfortable, at ease – particularly if Mr X speaks of his own understandable faults – there is the tendency to say that Mr X is humble.

One’s emotions are a sort of judgement. Since emotions are not the product of deliberation and seemingly uncontradictable, there is a strong bias to take that judgment as unassailably true.  Therefore if I feel safe around Mr X , if I feel like he is “open”, then he must be humble.

The trouble here is that humility is not the feeling produced by another. A con man easily produces comfort in another. An awkward man may be humble. Moses was very meek (Numbers 12:3) and very powerful. Humility in another may not make me feel good. Self disclosure may be deceptive.

Indeed, if I leave someone thinking that “he is humble” I am likely wrong, because I am thinking about him. 

Humility in a Christian should be marked by a tendency to not think about oneself and to point others to thinking about the Christ. Humility in a Christian is marked by the readiness to see one’s own sin and that constant move to repentance; to see and treat others as more important; to plainly live as one who has a “Lord”.

Humility is objectively true; humility is not how someone makes you feel.