Scholars who study humility tend to think of it in highly individualized terms, such as an absence of vanity or an accurate self-assessment. Individuating definitions can lead to such jarring concepts as the “humble white supremacist” (Roberts & Wood, 2007). Qualitative sociological research in the (predominantly North American) evangelical movement to accept and affirm lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer, and intersex (LGBTQI) identities, same-sex marriage, and sex/gender transition reveals that humility is not simply the awareness that “I could be wrong.” That awareness is rooted in what we have found to be humility’s defining element, concern to foster relationship. These findings prompt us to define humility as a fundamentally social disposition, as concern to protect the kinds of intimate connection with others that can transform the self. Recognizing the social nature of humility reveals why humility is incompatible with injustice.
We are grateful for generous support from the Templeton Religion Trust’s Self, Motivation, and Virtue Project; Marquette University’s Helen Way Klingler Sabbatical fellowship and Regular Research Grant; and a Fichter Research Grant from the Association for the Sociology of Religion. We thank Alicia T. Crosby for invaluable research assistance, and our gracious respondents for their honesty and bravery. We are also most thankful to Ruth Braunstein, anonymous reviewers, and the organizers and participants in the Humility in Civic Life conference at UConn for the inspiration to pursue these questions.
Moon, D. and Tobin, T.W. (2019), "Humility: Rooted in Relationship, Reaching for Justice", Religion, Humility, and Democracy in a Divided America (Political Power and Social Theory, Vol. 36), Emerald Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 101-121. https://doi.org/10.1108/S0198-871920190000036006
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