Summary: How can humility increase my happiness? (Title and outline adapted from Rick Warren at:


Psychology Today once asked 52,000 Americans, “What does it take to make you happy?” Their answers varied, but the interesting thing is that most of them talked about favorable circumstances instead of issues of the heart. The popular idea of happiness involves having the right circumstances. It’s what could be called “when and then” thinking. For instance:

When I get out of school, then I’ll be happy.

When I get a job, then I’ll be happy.

When I get maried, then I’ll be happy.

When I have children, then I’ll be happy.

When the kids leave home, then I’ll be happy.

When I am able to retire, then I’ll be happy.

Perhaps happiness is a wrong goal. At least not the way most people think about happiness.


Joy is much better goal because it describes a state we can have regardless of our circumstances

Joy is a choice. We choose to be joyful- often in spite of our circumstances. Right now, regardless of what we are facing in our lives, we are as joyful as we choose to be.

Life is difficult. Parenting is difficult. Marriage can be difficult. Work is difficult. There are many things that don’t go right and don’t go our way in life. If our joy depends upon everyhing going our way, we will be miserable for most of our lives.

As a hospice chaplain, I have been to see people who have joy in spite of their circumstances. How can that be? “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” Romans 12:12. They know that they are going to a better place (hope) so they have joy in their afflictions.

The greatest instructions on how to be joyful can be found in the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus began his message with 8 ways to find joy and the first one is the most important. “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 5:3, NIV.

Blessed- Sometimes translated as “Happy”- but it goes beyond the modern understanding of happiness. The idea is that if one has more money and more toys then one is more happy. This is a myth and untrue. This was even true in Jesus’ day. Literally to be blessed meant one is happy because of good fortune. However, to be poor is not good fortune. Must be internal- something that happens in spite of circumstances. Answering a question from Joann Moore. Can be translated like this, “Happy are those with the good fortune to be poor”- really what Jesus is saying in another sermon Luke 6:20. Sounds silly but that is what is being said

Poor in spirit- We might say that someone is spirited. Does being poor in spirit mean that one has to give up their personality or their spunkyness and have no backbone at all? This is the idea that says, “I am not worth anything. I can’t do anything. My makeup, personality, is unfortunately against me so just give up and don’t try.” No, we are all different and the Bible mentions that these differences are good. We need each other and some happen to have personalities that are hard to forget. Nothing wrong with this. To be poor in spirit simply means to be totally dependent on God. The poor are dependent on others to meet their basic needs. This is true humility; admitting that we don’t have it all together; that we haven’t arrived, that we havent learned it all; that we are a long way from perfection, and that we are not God, but dependent upon God. Jesus turns the popular idea of happiness upside down.

Instead of happiness a better word is joy. Joy and humility go together! They are twins, soul mates. If we want to have lasting joy in life, then we need to learn true humility.

Thesis: How can humility increase my happiness?

For instances:

Humility reduces stress

When we are humble we realize that we do not have all the answers. We realize that the world, and even the church, does not depend on us for its existence. Humility allows us to resign as the general managers of the universe. We can let God be God.

When we choose to humble ourselves, we are able to live with the tension between the real and the ideal- our ideal for marriage, our children, and our church, as opposed to the way things really are right now. We will always have that tension. Humility is accepting life with gratitdue even though things are not as they should be.

Interesting that the words human, humanity, humor, and humility all come from the same root word. Humility is, in essence, being in touch with our humanity. It is having a realitist view of both our strengths and our weaknesses.

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