A Study on Humility – The Appreciation Question

“Is it okay to receive applause and praise from others?”

How does a humble person react when appreciated for a job well done? How does he/she even react to praise?

The way the Holy Spirit made clear the solution to this question is with an analogy I’ll dub ‘The Swimming Pool Lesson’.

The Swimming Pool Lesson

Say you’re walking in a club, carrying something VERY IMPORTANT, say, your wedding ring. Now, as you walk by a pool, suddenly, the ring slips from your fingers, falling into the pool. You decide to get it back.

Now, as you’re about to jump in, you quickly notice: the pool is empty. It was drained, so it could be cleaned properly.

Does this bother you? No. Your objective is not to swim; it is to get your ring, and get out.

So you jump in, walk to where the ring is, pick it up, and climb out of the pool. Remember: the pool being empty didn’t bother you: you’re just happy you were able to get the ring back.

Same scenario, but now, the pool is full of water, like it’s supposed to be. So the ring lies at the bottom of the pool of water.

Again, you notice: the pool is full. Does this bother you? Again, no: your objective is not to swim; it is to get your ring, and get out.

But as you jump in, you like the feel of the water on your skin. It is cooling, and quite refreshing, and you really enjoy being in the pool.

But your objective is not to swim; it is to get your ring, and get out. But you do enjoy the swim.

So you grab your ring, swim back up, and climb out, letting the water drench from your body. You enjoyed the swim, but that would have meant nothing had you not gotten your ring back: that is the real source of your joy.


The pool of water is the applause and praise of others.

Case 1: the empty pool.

Simply put, a humble person doesn’t do things because of appreciation: he does things because he has a goal in sight or a job to accomplish.

A humble person is not appreciation hungry – he simply does things because they’re necessary, or out of his nature. If he is not applauded, he is not angry or offended – the real source of peace and assurance is that the job got done.

So a humble person is able to pray for a loved one, and be joyful just seeing that loved one prosper, not necessarily being recognized as the cause of change in that person.

A humble person is able to give his best ALL THE TIME, even when he is not recognized – that hurts, but not as much as it’d have hurt had the job not gotten done – this is the true cause of joy for a humble person.

Why? Because he doesn’t need applause or appreciation to define who he is – he knows who he is already. Now, he is able to love unselfishly, and even offer appreciation to someone else.

Case 2: the full pool

But now take the case of the full pool.

A humble person doesn’t shy away from applause or praise – in fact, he enjoys it. Wouldn’t you enjoy being told “Well done!” for something you put your all into?

In fact, a humble person is able to demand appreciation or gratitude – not because he needs it or for his own sake, but because it ought to be there!

“One of them, when he realized that he was healed, turned around and came back, shouting his gratitude, glorifying God. He kneeled at Jesus’ feet, so grateful. He couldn’t thank him enough–and he was a Samaritan. Jesus said, “WERE NOT TEN HEALED? WHERE ARE THE NINE? CAN NONE BE FOUND TO COME BACK AND GIVE GLORY TO GOD EXCEPT THIS OUTSIDER?”” (Luke 17:15-18 MSG, emphasis mine)

Did Jesus need the appreciation? Honestly, no. “If we are faithless [do not believe and are untrue to Him], He remains true (faithful to His Word and His righteous character), for He cannot deny Himself.(2 Timothy 2:13 AMP). He was simply stating that appreciation ought to have been given as it was due.

But notice from our analogy: the water washed over you, not into you.

A humble person is able to let the praise wash over him, rejuvenating him to do the work even better, like grease on a mechanical part. He is not afraid of someone telling him, “Thank you very much!” He welcomes it.

But he doesn’t let it wash into him – meaning the praise or adoration doesn’t change him.

Prior to jumping into the pool, you had one heart, two lungs, and two kidneys. After climbing out, that doesn’t change – you still have one heart, two lungs, and two kidneys. In fact, the water content in your body prior is likely to remain the same post (depends on if you pee in pools or not. 😀 )

A humble person refuses (sometimes CONSCIOUSLY) to let praise or appreciation change who he is or his reason for doing things. His person and worth remain the same prior and post appreciation.

Case 3: liking the pool

Now we deal with another case –what if you liked the feel of the water on your body as you dived into the pool? As in, really liked it?

You may be the sort of person who thinks appreciation can’t or won’t change you. In reality, you may be deceiving yourself – not purposely, but unconsciously/unknowingly.

Imagine jumping into the pool and liking the feel of the water. You liked it so much, you forgot about your ring, and concentrated only on this feeling: so good! Suddenly, you felt a burning in your chest, and a thought came: you’re running out of breath.

But you had to stay. You had to stay! So you jumped out, went to go and get scuba gear, and jumped back in. Ah, lovely!

But soon, the club was closing. Noo!!!!! You couldn’t get over the feeling. So you had to go and find a club that stayed open overnight, and with a swimming pool they’d let you use. They billed you crazily, but you didn’t care: I want the pool! I want the pool!! Of course, after staying so long in the water, your skin started turning prune…

Can you see the trend? You became pool-conscious, and you began to do anything to swim, like spend your energy, time and money, and even risk your health.

Such is the case of someone who, after feeling a rush of appreciation for a deed well done, keeps doing things to continually feel that sweet wave of appreciation, even risking getting to the point of being (ab)used by others. Some of us don’t even know we’re that susceptible – after all, that may have been your first time of jumping into a pool: how could you have known you’d like it so much?

Are you sure you’re not appreciation hungry? Be careful, you just may become an addict after feeling the first wave…we might all know a few people now like that. May God uphold us.

A perfect example of this principle being applied is Jesus Who, soon after receiving appreciation for being the Messiah, went into the temple and flogged the traders out: first of all, He didn’t rebuke the people for appreciating Him; but, had He let the appreciation wash into Him, He would never later attempt such an act that would obviously draw the ire of many of the very same people (see Matt. 21:6-13).

In Christ, you have the same Spirit. Work on it till you get it right.

© Adeleye Adeolu, 2010, “A Study On Humility”. All Rights Reserved. No part of this article must be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the author’s permission.

p.s. “A Study on ‘Humility'” is a small 20-page e-book, and you can get it free. Just mail me at xltdnc@yahoo.com with the heading “Request for free e-book”, and I’ll send it to you. God bless you!


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