Inferiority versus Humility

Psalms 18:14, "The spirit of a man will sustain his infirmity; but a wounded spirit, who can bear?"

I used to worry about a lack of ability, but now realise a lack of ability can be compensated for by an increase of the Spirit. However, a lack of the Spirit can never be compensated for by an increase in ability. In the resurrection, we get a new body not a new spirit. Our lack of ability will not be evident then and even now, it is the spirit of a man that is the candle of the Lord (Proverbs 20:27) so why would we let our feelings of inadequacy become an inferiority complex, bringing forth unpleasant fruit for ourselves and making it hard for others?

Humility is realising what we are in the sight of God. There is something about humility that makes a man useful and something about pride that makes a man useless. Humility is an honest estimation of ourselves and a complete dependence on God. It is right to esteem others better than ourselves (Phillippians 2:3, Romans 12:3) because they likely are and it makes for good fellowship when we feel this way. There is wisdom and we can be contentment in recognising our inabilities and accepting that that is the way we are made. This isn’t what is meant by the expression, "Inferiority Complex."

It is a common struggle to fight feelings of inferiority, but this is a battle that must be fought and won, as it is one of the most deadly. It is from defeat in this battle that jealousy is born. Jealousy has no conscience, so it will not stop at anything.

A sign of maturity is to learn to accept ourselves and to have faith in our "Bridegroom," knowing if we do our best in our place, He will accept and bless us, just as He does others. We can’t measure our usefulness or His love for us by how people respond or don’t respond to us. We must die to the desire to be liked and accepted of people, just as He did. Jesus responded rightly when they wanted to make Him a king and also when they rejected Him.

Paul said it is unwise to compare ourselves with others (II Corinthians 10:12). It will either discourage us or make us proud, self-confident, and self-satisfied. Comparisons are not conducive to good fellowship and results in a spirit of competition which brings unrest.

As a child, we felt secure if our father was near. It is safe when we consider those outside, to compare our "Father" and their "father" (John 8:42). Paul reminds us that we are not in bondage or fear because we have been adopted into this great Family (Romans 8:15). "Our Father" is able by His Spirit, to give new life to these frail mortal bodies and to help our infirmities (Romans 8:11,26). If we are filled with His Spirit, it will help and cover our infirmities, but if our spirit is wrong, it is hard for anyone to be around us (Proverbs 18:14).

A humble person recognises whatever he gets is more than he deserves. He is always content because he is always getting more than he deserves. A humble person gives 100% and feels it is nothing, therefore expects nothing in return. Thus, he is never disappointed and often richly blessed. Humility is taking the lowly place and feeling it is our place. In John 13:13, none of the disciples had felt it was their place to wash feet. Here Jesus did not say the lowly place was not His place, but that it was and that it is ours, too.

Two attitudes that do not come by human nature:

1. The attitude of Jonathan towards David

In I Samuel 18:4, we read of Jonathan stripping himself of his garment and armour to help and encourage David. Jonathan could have been king, but was willing to give place to David. He was willing to play second fiddle and was enjoying the music. He could play second fiddle and never hit a sour note. When we have this spirit, we contribute to the harmony of the orchestra. When God has given the place to another and they capably fill their place, it is easy to look on and wonder if we could do so well. Then we begin to doubt that we could. The problem is not whether or not we could, but to accept that God has allowed that place to be filled by that person. If He ever gives it to us, He will help us to fill it, just as He helped the other person. It is always easier to see how useful others are, than to see our own place of usefulness.

2. The attitude of David towards Saul

Sometimes we see a person who is not filling their place well. God has allowed them to remain there and we must just be willing to let them fill it. Our part is as David in his rejection. David never played politics, suggesting if he were king things would be so much better. He spoke of Saul as the Lord’s anointed. We can uphold the other when we can conscientiously approve. When they are wrong, we can show a right spirit towards them and the wrong.

Christian Humility versus Inferiority Complex

Often "inferiority" and humility are confused. Yet those two marks are very different. They spring from different sources, they provide different kinds of fruit in one’s life, and they ultimately result in two entirely different relationships with God and His people.

Humility provides for a "Christ-centred life" while "inferiority" provides for a "self-centred life." Humility attracts attention to Christ, not self. This is evident in dress, words, and actions. Humility is not thinking too much of our self or thinking too harshly of our self. It is just not thinking of our self; humility is not thinking evil of our self but just forgetting our self.

All this actions of a humble person are focused on extending the cause of Christ. That person will continually concern himself with how everything relates to Jesus and Jesus’ interests in the world. On the other hand, a person with an "inferiority complex;" while he may appear "humble," concerns himself with how everything relates to himself and his own personal standing and image.

True humility is only attainable through faith. Without believing in God, no man can ever be truly humble in his heart. Yes, there may be outward evidences of lowliness of mind, but never to the depth produced by God’s own work.

God wearies of our feelings of "inferiority," because they reflect a lack of faith in His workmanship. He glories in our confidence in His ability!

Inferiorities have "companions:"  envy, hatred, jealousy, selfishness, competition, pretence, anger, strife, murmuring, discontentment. A person with an "Inferiority Complex" is resentful, revengeful, and easily provoked or irritated.

Humility has "companions," also:  peace, satisfaction, rest, kindness, stability, love, gentleness, trust, happiness. A humble person can take injustice and insults and has an appreciation of others.

"Inferiority" often forbids us to rejoice with those that rejoice, simply because our feelings of envy are greater than our feelings of compassion, but humility will permit us to weep with those that weep.

A humble person is amiable and at rest but a person who gives into feelings of "inferiority" is seldom at peace and frequently difficult to work with.

Many problems in fellowship and companionship find their roots in "inferiority." It is sad to see some who have been deceived; now accepting that "inferiority" in their lives is really humility. When someone feels inferior, even those who are close to that person, may feel that they are not loved or appreciated like they should be...and they aren’t!

A person may have an inferiority complex before they hear the gospel, then find strength and confidence through Jesus. Others carry feelings of inferiority over into their spiritual lives. Inferiority is a "handicap of faith."

Inferiority is all too often tolerated in Christian lives and the possession of humility is all too often neglected. An inferiority complex is not a virtue, but a problem. Humility is an atmosphere enjoyed by all. It is an answer, not a problem.

A Superiority Complex is a double problem. A person all wrapped up in himself makes a small undesirable package. A person in love with himself has few rivals and a life-long romance; conceit is a terrible disease. It makes everyone else sick (Galatians 6:13). It is easy to get taken up with our own qualifications and forget God.


Some examples in action:  Moses

Moses became one of the meekest men on the face of the earth. The world measures man by ability, but God measures man by humility. However, Exodus 3 and 4 reveals Moses to be suffering from some inferiority. Inferiority blinds us to the fact that God will be with us and never leave nor forsake us. It may be at this point that Moses did not yet know the character of God enough to understand this. By the grace of God, Moses developed into the meekest man in all the earth, but here are some statements he made that make one feel he felt inferior:

1. Exodus 3:11, "Who am I?"

2. Exodus 3:13, "What is his name?"

3. Exodus 4:1, "They will not believe me."

4. Exodus 4:10, "I am not eloquent."

4. Exodus 4:13, "Send someone with me."

It is encouraging that the Lord was able to use this man in a special way. Possibly, the Lord felt this feeling in Moses would make him dependent on God and not self. This would help Moses help the people.

The Twelve Spies

Numbers 13:

Here inferiority frustrated the grace of God by blinding 10 of the 12 spies to God’s past faithfulness. Inferiority "masks unbelief" in the word of God and is the result of human reasoning. In this case, inferiority resulted in slander which is a serious offence to God. Inferiority eventually defeats those who secretly nurture it. Like the 10 spies, they fell even before the battle cry!

Numbers 13:33, "..we were in our own sight as grasshoppers, and so we were in their sight."

The threat the children of Israel posed to their enemies was in proportion to their measure of faith. Can you see how inferiority causes people who are challenged to check themselves and their resources and not depend on the Lord nor the fact that He has helped them at other times? Not only does inferiority have the potential to discourage the heart in which it originates, but it is extremely contagious and may quench the flame of faith in others. Verse 30, "We are well able," was not pride but humble faith in the power of God in Joshua and Caleb’s lives. At the time, it could be questioned but their future lives provide it was faith, not self-confidence.

How then can an Inferiority Complex be overcome?

1. Recognise you feel inferior and that it is a problem, not a virtue. Some justify unacceptable behaviour by excusing themselves, saying they have an inferiority complex. Often the action gets interpreted by others as a superiority complex.

2. Desire to overcome it by the grace of God.

3. Act in faith. Inferiority is evidence of lack of faith. While a person who feels inferior lacks faith, the desire to obtain faith is enough to begin venturing in obedience to God. Lack of faith makes us feel that obedience to God is a venture. Only acting in faith and finding God true to us, builds faith. Eventually, faith grows to the point where we can trust God without feeling like we’re "getting out on a limb." The more we act in faith, the more faith we obtain to act on. Venturing stretches the "fabric of our faith," enabling us to grow in believing! Doubt is "cancer of your confidence." Certainly Phillippians 4:13 reveals a paradox of divine humility:  I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me. Humility embraces the "enabling power" of God whereas inferiority tends to see all the reasons why "I can’t change" or why "I can’t do it."

4. Consider Isaiah 57:15 and Proverbs 8:31. As we get to understand by the Gospel that the God that is the high and lofty One delights to have a home in us, why should we feel of no value? Isaiah 57:15, "For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy, 'I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.'"