Humilitas: A Lost Key to Life, Love, and Leadership

Written by John Dickson

Critiqued by Kathy L. McFarland


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Dickson, John. Humilitas: A Lost Key to Life, Love, and Leadership. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011.


Author John Dickson writes this historical perspective based upon the witness of influential and inspiring people that do humility well.[1] His practical presentations reveal the importance of humanity for modern-day lives, in the midst of love, and the delivery of leadership strives to be beneficial to the readers.[2]

It is influence through humility that is a constant theme within Dickson's book.[3] He liberally accounts some great and humble men from all walks of life as examples that give us pattern to emulate.

Leadership must parallel the virture of humility, and Chapter 2 reinforces this proposition.[4] Dickson speaks of persuasion and example of a good leader, with persuasion greatly aided by the virtue of humility.[5]

Chapter 3 addresses "Common Sense and the Logic of Humility.”[6] Dickson informs the reader that humility is common sense, an idea that the reader must contemplate and critique against conflict Scripture to fully support the generalized statement. The characterization of "horizontal” and "vertical” types of humility are introduced in this chapter that almost reaches a contemplative truth concerning humility.

Chapter 4 applies Dickson's regard for humility by speaking of the beautiful aesthetics that seem apparent among the famously humbled and Chapter 5 deals with history of humility development in the ancient world that was so disliked.[7]Chapter 6 speaks of Christ redefining greatness, and Chapter 7 speaks of why humility generates abilities in an odd association where Christ was the example, but mankind the developer of skills above those given to them by the Creator.[8] Chapter 8 speaks of character development influenced by humility, and Chapter 9 the inspiration of humility.[9] Finally, the author concludes with Chapters 10 and 11 that attempts to further develop voluntary, purposeful humility that exceeds tolerance and has other steps to promote more humility through organizing thoughts and contemplating scenarios to enhance its presence.[10]


The research of Jim Collins, Stanford University business analysis, based upon his five-year study of the difference between a good company vs. a great one, is used by Author Dickson to introduce leadership humility.[11]Colins choice of eleven companies that financially outproduced all other companies in percentage of growth in the stock market and his analysis that highlights the leadership similarities provides a strong support for Dickson's claims.Collins discovery of high-performance companies linked to Level 5 leadership that is marked by steely determination and an attitude of humility in their growth phases, melds nicely with Dickson's thesis, and provides an adequate springboard his ideas on humility.

Author Dickson defines the meaning of humility as "the noble choice to forgo your status. Deploy your resources or use your influence for the good of others before yourself.” Dickson's definition is simplified by stating that humility is "a willingness to hold power in service of others.”

Dickson seems to have been in some error concerning the three characteristics of humility as displaying dignity, a willing spirit, and social connections when compared to Scripture anecdotal evidence that is circumstantial but illustrative.[12] His three characteristics seem to represent a "voluntary” rather than an "involuntary” nature that ultimately reflects humility.Colossians 2:18 states,  "Let no man beguile you of your reward in a voluntary humility and worshiping of angels, intruding into those things which he hath not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind.” Clearly, voluntary humility takes a willing spirit that connects with others, a condition that is not acceptable to the body of Christ.Rather, it is an involuntary humility that permeates a believer's entire being through the fear of the LORD God.Practiced humility is voluntary and fake; involuntary humility is a natural condition that is created through a believer's relationship with the most holy God. Willingness to obtain humility makes it an action of man, rather than a response to God.

Either humility comes because the supernatural presence of God creates an involuntary humility that is a natural response to His omnipotence and omnipresence; or, humility is common sense that can be practiced and increased according to man's efforts. Dickson almost reaches this important point in his classification of horizontal and vertical humility.He suggests the feelings of being "spookily small” when faced with the vastness of the Universe;[13] yet, he fails to consider that this state of being smaller than the Creator is the exact reason for involuntary humility among all that fear the LORD God.


This small book was at first inspiring.When it is read in one sitting, it moves the reader to contemplate the great men the author chose that emulate humility in his opinion.Certainly, though Christ was the better example of humility amongst mankind, Dickson's examples were not specifically limited to just Christians.His thesis based the existence of humility upon human experience and development of that virtue through careful nurturing of the characteristic natures of humility.

Given the modern-day hype that Christian believers put upon themselves, often competing to show the most humbleness in their congregated group, this book should support that well.The tendency to then extend the pretend, voluntary humility to the idea of Christ reflecting the same, waters down His Presence and becomes ridicule for his "effeminate” position as outsiders look into the faithful's presentation.

Voluntary humility is wrong; it is a created condition that is prohibited amongst Christians. There is no self-help book that can create the humility of Truth that is expected by the LORD God.Even Christ was given the Spirit of fear of the LORD God in order that the true humility before God existed within his human nature (Isaiah 11:2) from the start. Thus, this small book that seems to create a great deal of contemplative analysis within a person's life concerning the virtue of humility, instead, conflicts with the true nature of humility expected by the LORD God through the fear of Him.



Dickson, John. Humilitas: A Lost Key to Life, Love, and Leadership. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011.



[1] John Dickson, Humilitas: A Lost Key to Life, Love, and Leadership (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011), 17,19.

[2] ibid., 19.

[3] ibid., 29.

[4] ibid., 33.

[5] ibid., 47.

[6] ibid., 51.

[7] Ibid., 67, 83.

[8] ibid., 97, 113.

[9] ibid., 143. 149.

[10] ibid., 161, 171.

[11] ibid., 20.

[12] Ibid., 24, 25.

[13] Ibid., 63.

Last modified: Friday, 13 March 2015, 1:30 PM