(CCSLQ-6) Humility Is Not

This is part of an occasional series (currently it’s weekly) exploring quotations attributed to C.S. Lewis that are questionable for one reason or another. There is an “at a glance” page HERE to quickly see what has been posted so far in this series. Also, if you haven’t already, be sure to read the INTRODUCTION to this series. 


“Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less.”

Humility is something that when it is lacking in another person is very easy to notice. However, we are often unaware when it is missing in our own lives. Thus, this virtue is clearly a desirable quality and finding expressions that support it is all that matters. The details of who exactly stated the quotation isn’t very important, right? Of course, promoting one respected quality at the sacrifice of another doesn’t make much sense.

That’s where the above quotation comes in. It’s a lovely concise expression that helps clarify what it means to be truly humble. For readers of C.S. Lewis it might  “sound” a lot like him, because he was known for expressing complex ideas in succinct ways. However, this saying is not from him. How can I state this with certainty? First, it is not found in any of Lewis’s writings. Though some places reference Mere Christianity, it is not found there. The fact that it is located in another author’s book doesn’t necessarily mean they are the source. However, this quotation is found in a book that is known for having a lot of footnotes and citations. That book is The Purpose Driven Life and the author is Rick Warren. In the 2002 (original) edition it is found on Day 19 in a chapter entitled “Cultivating Community.”

As noted below, Lewis did write on the subject of humility and made statements that are similar. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if Rick Warren had been inspired by Lewis’s writings. Yet, in this case, whether or not it is a paraphrase of Lewis, he did NOT write it and shouldn’t be given credit. Rick Warren is the author of the statement and when sharing this expression that fact should be noted.


“It is better to forget about yourself altogether.”
from Mere Christianity, book 3, chapter 8 (The Great Sin)


“If anyone would like to acquire humility, I can, I think, tell him the first step. The first step is to realise that one is proud.”
from Mere Christianity, book 3, chapter 8 (The Great Sin)


“Do not imagine that if you meet a really humble man he will be what most people call ‘humble’ nowadays: he will…not be thinking about humility: he will not be thinking about himself at all.”
from Mere Christianity, book 3, chapter 8 (The Great Sin)


“May God’s grace give you the necessary humility. Try not to think—much less, speak—of their sins. One’s own are a much more profitable theme! And if on consideration, one can find no faults on one’s own side, then cry for mercy: for this must be a most dangerous delusion.
from The Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis, Volume 3 (to Mary Willis Shelbrune on 1/9/1961)

The next quote examined is:

“You are never too old to set another goal or dream a new dream.”

Related Articles:

What Lewis NEVER Wrote  (Podcast)

Not Quite Lewis – Podcast Version

Not Quite Lewis – Questionable Lewisian Quotations (Conf. Paper)

Updated 10/10/2015


  1. Justin /

    This isn’t originally from the Purpose Driven Life. As far as I can tell, the first appearance of this quote is from This Was Your Life! Preparing to Meet God Face to Face by Rick Howard and Jamie Lash (page 85). The quote appears, without other attribution, as their summary of C.S. Lewis’s description of humility in Mere Christianity (which explains the confusion of attributing the quote to C.S. Lewis). It appears right before a block quote from Mere Christianity.

    • William OFlaherty /

      I tracked down a copy of the book and noticed that the wording is similar, but not exact. In their book they say: “Real humility is not thinking less of ourselves: it is thinking of ourselves less.”

      Either way I hadn’t heard of the book appreciate the information.


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