In this age of selfies, instant celebrity, and corporate scandals, there is a pressing need for greater humility.

This book synthesizes research and theory relevant to humility and heroism, articulating a vision of heroic humility — humility of such great depth that it inspires others.

Fortunately, humility can be learned. It has three aspects: an honest self-appraisal (including an attitude that one is teachable), modest self-presentation, and an orientation toward building others up rather than putting them down. People who embody heroic humility not only demonstrate instances of great humility, but practice it throughout their lives, even when severely tested.

This book likens the formation of a humble character to a hero's journey, with a "call," a passage through challenges and temptations, a descent into abyss, and redemption.

An impressive array of examples — such as Mother Teresa, Malala Yousafzai, and Abraham Lincoln — illustrate that no two heroic journeys are identical.

This insightful volume challenges readers to embark on their own journey of heroic humility in their work, service, and personal lives.

Table of Contents

David G. Myers



I. Humility and Its Measurement

  1. What Is Humility?
  2. Types of Humility

II. What the Science Shows

  1. Humility and Relationships
  2. Humility and Other Virtues (and Vices)
  3. Humility, Mental Health, and Physical Health
  4. Humility, Religion, and Spirituality
  5. Humility, Society, and Life Satisfaction

III. Heroes, Humility, and Heroic Leadership

  1. Heroic Humility and the Hero's Quest
  2. Transformation to Heroic Humility
  3. Exemplars of Heroically Humble Leadership

IV. Applications of the Science of Humility to 21st-Century Life

  1. Life Lessons From Heroes of Humility
  2. Bucking the Trend — Being Humble in an Age of Self-Focus
  3. Becoming More Humble — Deliberately
  4. Heroically Humble Leaders, Teams, and Organizations
  5. Takeaway Lessons

Appendix: Some Potential Activities for Use at Home, With Students, or With Patients




Author Bios

Everett L. Worthington Jr., PhD, is Commonwealth Professor in the Department of Psychology at Virginia Commonwealth University and a licensed clinical psychologist in Virginia.

He has published more than 35 books and 400 articles and chapters, mostly on forgiveness, humility, positive psychology, marriage, family, and religion/spirituality. He provides free online resources on promoting humility, forgiveness of others and oneself, and couple relationships on his website.

He attributes whatever success he has experienced to the support from his wife of 46 years, Kirby, and his family, and also to the wonderful students and colleagues he has had the privilege of working with.

Scott T. Allison, PhD, has authored numerous books, including Heroic Leadership: An Influence Taxonomy of 100 Exceptional Individuals and Heroes: What They Do & Why We Need Them. He is a professor of psychology at the University of Richmond, where he has published extensively on heroism and leadership. His other books include Reel Heroes & Villains: Two Hero Experts Critique the Movies, Conceptions of Leadership: Enduring Ideas and Emerging Insights, Frontiers in Spiritual Leadership: Discovering the Better Angels of Our Nature, and the Handbook of Heroism and Heroic Leadership.

His work has been featured in USA Today, The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, Slate online magazine, Psychology Today, and The Christian Science Monitor, as well as on National Public Radio, MSNBC, and CBS.

He has received Richmond's Distinguished Educator Award and the Virginia Council of Higher Education's Outstanding Faculty Award.

Reviews & Awards

The authors discuss this subject eloquently. Personally, I can see using this book in many aspects of our daily lives, both personal and professional. With much need to build resilience in our communities, becoming more humble and showing humility just may be one of the factors that can support this goal.
—Doody's Reviews

This is a beautifully written, research-informed, dynamic, and practical book on the overlooked virtue of humility. I especially appreciated the heroic emphasis, which is a vital counterpoint to the common misconception that humility is a form of weakness.
—Julie J. Exline, PhD, Department of Psychological Sciences, Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, OH

Worthington and Allison show us that science can actually be inspiring. For those interested in the virtue of humility, this book provides the clearest synthesis of psychological research and leadership practice available. For those who think humility is an outdated or oppressive idea, I suggest you look at this well-nuanced, contemporary formulation of heroic humility.
—Steven J. Sandage, PhD, Boston University, Boston, MA