Why did “humiliation” become a bad word? “Humility” has connotations of virtue, whereas as “humiliation” is more like “degrading” (I suppose “degradation” would be the more accurate word to compare it to grammatically. However, as a scientist, that one has chemical connotations that I can’t get over, so you’ll need to excuse the grammar today).

A wise friend explained it thus:

“Humility” comes from the inside out. It’s an internal characteristic to be nurtured. “Humiliation” comes from the outside in. While for many this sort of thing is unwanted and may have no benefits, for those of a certain disposition

Some of us aren’t so good at letting the inner humility out. Some of us need a little bit of help. Even for me, thought, calling it “a little bit of help” sounds much better than “a little bit of humiliation.” It makes it easier to take- at least verbally. Whether what comes next is easy to take or not is completely beside the point, and will almost definitely drive all concerns about connotations out of one’s mind.

7 thoughts on “Humiliation

  1. What an interesting chain of thought. Is there a difference I wonder between to be humble and to be humiliated? Sometimes we need to be humbled (all of us men as well as women). We seem to me to live in a society that elevates rights but says very little about the duties we owe to our families, our husbands/partners, one another and the rest of society. To be humbled every now and then should be a good thing but if we substitute humiliated is it the same? Too much thinking before breakfast I must get some coffee

    1. Interesting that even “humbled” sounds better than “humiliated.” While I’d think most would agree that everyone needs to be humbled on occasion, it would be difficult to say that anyone should be humiliated. But, in practice, would there be much difference between the two?

      Perhaps I should have more coffee as well- then all may become clear 🙂

      1. I had my coffee Kia and spent a day feeling humble. I was helping an extended family (vaguely connected with mine) put on an event to raise money for a charity. They were a humble family in that they have no particular distinction in terms of money, education or position in life but they worked together selflessly and hard for no direct benefit to them. So the issue you raised stayed with me all day in the heat and this morning I looked it all up in the OED. To humiliate is to ‘injure’ someone’s standing or dignity whereas to humble someone is merely to take them down a peg or two. So I am going to make a controversial statement: punishment should only ever humble and never humiliate.

  2. A difficult topic to articulate. I’ll give it a shot.

    To be humbled is to make a lowering self-adjustment in your opinion of yourself. Often in comparison with someone considered of lower status who has achieved traits you admire but haven’t yet achieved.

    To be humiliated is to fear that your standing in the opinion of others has been lowered. Almost exclusively when considering those of the same or higher status.

  3. Sue- I guess one is never too old or experienced to look up spanking-related words in the dictionary! Those early experiences were really teaching us life skills, weren’t they? Thank you for the definitions 🙂

    Nikolai- Your shot is much appreciated- I completely agree. Also goes to show that comparing ones self to others can often be a cause of unnecessary anxiety.

    1. I’m not sure the OED would agree that humbled and humiliated are spanking related words but I don’t think I’ll ring Oxford to find out!

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