SJD Articles


Humility & Pride   

By Sifu Bahram Khozairy

Copyright 2005 by Bahram Khozairy. All Rights Reserved.

        What are true humility and pride? And what vital role do these two human characteristics play in martial arts schools and training? It is extremely important for us to comprehend the Real meaning and nature of these two forms of behavior and idiosyncrasy, which are deeply embedded within the character of humanity; in fact it is so important that our eternal destiny is tied in with them.  They affect our relationships at work, at home, within every facet of the society (including the martial arts environments), and finally our relationship with God.  Now, to begin, the term humility means, "the quality or the state of being humble."[i]  The word humble is defined in the New Merriam-Webster Dictionary as, "not proud or haughty, lowly, meek."[ii] Therefore, the general understanding is that pride and humility are at the opposite poles of the spectrum. The term humble, which is an adjective, appears numerous times within the pages of the Bible, and is defined as, "lowliness of mind, abase, modesty, humble heart."[i] We are told in various texts that God will save the humble spirit. (i.e. Job 22:29). Now, pride is an invert characteristic of humility. It is defined as "haughty behavior, elation over an act or possession, ostentatious display."[ii]  The term "ostentatious" is an antithesis of humility, which means "pretentious or excessive display,"[iii]and also translates into showing something outwardly, or to be excessively apparent. Thus, it appears that pride has to do with the exterior demonstration of what is internal, which is condescension, snobbery, egotism or arrogance.  On the other hand, humility, which is also the exterior demonstration of what is interior, then translates to lowliness of mind and heart, submissiveness, and is forbearing and not pretentious.  It can be characterized by not showing something outwardly or to be not excessively apparent.  However, what proceeds from the heart and mind of man, becomes apparent in his or her demeanor, actions, the way he or she talks, walks and displays externally.  "For each tree is known by its own fruit. The good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth what is good; and the evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth what is evil; for his mouth speaks from that which fills his heart." (Luke 6: 44) There are people who fake there outside appearances in order to cover up what lies within their hearts and minds. They are most eloquently illustrated by the Lord Jesus as "hypocrites."  The word hypocrite, which is hoopokreetace in Greek, is defined as "to pretend, to decide to speak or act under a false part, stage player."[iv]

Thus, He portrayed the Pharisees and Scribes of that time as actors on the stage, or phonies. There are Pharisees and Scribes in our times as well. They are everywhere within different organizations such as martial arts schools.  People go where their hearts go and follow what their hearts desire. "For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also." (Luke 12:34)  However, it would be very difficult to cover up one's own intentions and motives by diffident and humble behavior, because the meaning of humility, again, is not just a segregated and sequestered external show, but the outward expression of what is inside.  To minimize the importance of the meaning of the two terms pride and humility is to minimize their meaning and vitality within our lives. A humble spirited heart would eventually prove itself through time.  Hypocrites that pretend to be humble can only remain hypocrites for the time being, in other words, they can only act and put up a show for so long, but their deeds will eventually manifest what is truly within their hearts and minds.  Now, the humble character of a martial arts student will allow him or her to be calm, patient, not overpowering other students, not bragging about his or her skills, continually demonstrating respect for others, (those that are below him, those that are above him, and those that are at his level).  He or she does not challenge others, and does not loose himself or herself when achieving a higher level.  A humble student does not brag about his rewards, and does not compare his or her skills with fellow students.  As Jesus stated in Matthew 22:11 regarding the levels of the disciples, "the greatest among you shall be your servant." A humble student can also be very confident in his or her training and goals, but would not boast about his accomplishments.  He waits until he is lifted up and honored by his authority and teacher.  We are reminded "A man's pride will bring him low, but a humble spirit will obtain honor." (Proverb 29:23)   The humility of a martial artist must be genuine, real, sincere, and not fabricated.  It will eventually prove itself through time as a metal prove itself through refining fire.  It must be noted that pride was the cause for the overthrow of Satan, who caused the temptation and overthrow of the first humans in the garden.  The wisdom of Solomon echoes with a crushing impact at this juncture, where he announced  "Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before stumbling" (Proverbs 16:18).  Now, it is also the responsibility of the instructor to guide and direct his students toward the right path.  Since the teacher plays an extremely

vital and sensitive role in the development of his/her students, it must also be noted that first and foremost the instructor and director must know and practice humility as a way of life.  Since he is the model for his pupils, he can have a direct negative or a positive effect on the quality formation of his or her students. A true instructor, by all means, must posses a genuinely godly character and humility, which is the fruit of the Holy Spirit.  Thus, the character of the student is a reflection of the attributes of his or her leader.  Since martial arts have become so stereotyped in our society with arrogance, pride and cockiness, it is no wonder that a majority of the population has received a wrong impression of the martial arts and tends to generalize and judge the whole martial arts population and industry under the same umbrella.  Not possessing humility, or even misapprehension of humility by the instructor can cause devastating consequences in the students' lives and personalities.  The more pupils learn and grow in the art, the more, they posses the humble traits, only:

If their teacher is demonstrating and teaching true and genuine godly humility, and,

If the students are willing to emulate their instructor as their model. 

What then is the eternal effect of humility and prideful-ness?  The scripture says, "God is opposed to the Proud, but gives grace to the Humble.  Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you." (1 Peter 5:5, James 4:10)  No one can escape the consequences of pride in their lives.  And no one can manifest true humility without the source of humility in his or her lives.  Jesus said that we should have the attitude and the heart and the mind of a child, in order to receive the eternal life that only He can offer, "Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven." (Matthew 18:3ff, 4) It is obvious therefore, that humility, as was pointed out earlier, is more than an action.  It is truly the attitude and character of the mind and the heart.  No wonder the Bible does not hesitate to remind us that God would only save a humble person (Job 22:29ff).  It is also not impossible to learn to be humble.  A martial arts student can develop humility in a godly and disciplined martial arts environment. A humble student will be able to receive the truth much easier than a prideful student.  In fact, a prideful individual will never grow, simply because all of the windows and doors of his or her mind and heart are shut to receiving the truth.  A prideful student is conceited and not open-minded and believes there is no truth outside of himself or herself.  On the other hand, a genuinely humble student is able to grow much faster, is able to learn and analyze the material, and is able to be trained much more efficiently and can achieve higher levels of skills.



1.The New Merriam-Webster Dictionary (Springfield, Ma. Merriam-Webster Inc., 1989), page 360.

2.Ibid, p. 359.

3. James Strong, LL.D., S.T.D. The New Strong's, Hebrew and Chaldee dictionary, Lexicon, (Nashville, Tn.: Thomas Nelson Publishers), Greek Dictionary the New Testament, page 70,

4. Merriam-Webster Dictionary, p. 576.

5. Ibid, p. 717

6. Strong's, Greek Dictionary of the New Testament, p. 74.