What’s Your Tell?

To even get near humility, even for a moment, is like a drink of cold water to a man in a desert.

Do not imagine that if you meet a really humble man he will be what most people call “humble” nowadays: he will not be a sort of greasy, smarmy person, who is always telling you that, of course, he is nobody.

Probably all you will think about him is that he seemed a cheerful, intelligent chap who took a real interest in what you said to him.

If you do dislike him it will be because you feel a little envious of anyone who seems to enjoy life so easily. He will not be thinking about humility: he will not be thinking about himself at all. ~ C.S. Lewis

Looking for a humble person? Look for their tell.

A tell is a repetitive behavior or mannerism or a part of our demeanor that sends out non-verbal clues about the nature of our thoughts or feelings. A tell reveals something hidden. Poker players specialize in learning to read and mislead with tells.

We all have tells. Funny, for the longest time, I wanted my tell to be humility but I couldn’t figure out how to send the signal. I thought of humility as something I could attain by landing midway between self-deprecating and self-promoting.

But humility isn’t a self hyphenated state. The humble person doesn’t think of himself as humble. As Lewis says, the humble person will not be thinking about himself at all.

I doubt if a humble person is often told they’re humble. They’re just thought of as someone who who seems to enjoy life so easily; a cheerful, intelligent chap who took a real interest in what you said to him.

I’ve met only a few humble folks in my life. If they’re reading this, they have no idea I’m talking about them. And that is their tell.

Author: Debbie

A former counselor and public speaker, I'm grateful for many, many things - God's grace most of all!

25 thoughts on “What’s Your Tell?”

  1. loved the relating of the “tell” to everyday life. I so often look in people’s eyes. Their humility and genuine love for others is right there in their eyes—they LIVE their faith, they LIVE theyir love. Great post, Debbie,,

  2. Somehow I missed this one, Debbie–that’s not good. I think it’s no easy trick to present yourself authentically and be assured that the majority will get you. Having gone through some significant and fairly rapid changes in the past 18 months–I sometimes feel it’s hard to keep my balance, and still fret just a bit about how I’m coming across. For example, does being so effusive and out there communicate lack of humility/humbleness? It can get tiresome to feel obliged to clarify that “yes, I’m now a fairly confident person–AND, my confidence is due to the fact that I’m now secure in my identity with/In Christ.” So, then I hasten to make the point that it’s not really self-confidence, but Christ-confidence: “Jesus living BIG inside of me”. So maybe next year I won’t fret anymore about whether folks think I’m humble or not–ya think? I mean, seriously–I don’t have the extra hours in a week, anymore. As for Henri’s penchant for cheating at Cribbage, and you pretending not to notice–since I don’t know the game at all, if we play he’ll be able to cheat with wild abandon–I’ll be totally clueless, and happy for him to win. God bless y’all big–love to you both, your sis Caddo

    1. Hello Caddo!
      No worries about missing the post.I never expect anyone to read everything I write – but I missed your comment until tonight- and that’s really not good!
      When you’re with someone who is sincerely more interested in you than in themselves, it shines through pretty clearly – no matter who’s talking.
      I love your effusiveness. I don’t think it require disclaimers. Just keep on being your wonderful S.G.P.W ( I’ve decided woman works better than girl given the pg implications) self! 😀

    1. Hello Katharine!
      As a counselor, I spent years trying to be unreadable.
      As I got older, I carried that over into my personal life – always trying to put on a good front and be positive.
      Those who looked the hardest saw through me, but most were content to go along. I’m much more willing to be ‘read’ now.
      I think the key to be a really good listener is learning to read non-verbals, which is very much in the same realm as tells.
      I don’t know what a poker player would see, but amateurs are reading our tells – rightly or wrongly – all the time! 😀

  3. This is so good, gracious one! I had never heard of “tell” before. My 2nd stepdad had more money than most, but he never acted like it, never hinted he was “above” us in anyway, and always asked us questions and listened to what we had to say. It was so easy to love him. 🙂 God bless you as you have us all thinking about humility today! love and prayers!

    1. Debbie –
      How wonderful! People are easy to love for a variety of reasons, but humility is almost irresistible.
      Such a contrast to those who try so hard. You know, like when you compliment them on their singing or serving in some fashion and they quickly cut you off and say “On it’s not me, to God be the glory”.
      The problem then, in my mind, is that they’re so anxious to practice humility they make you feel awkward.
      It’s like Lewis says, the truly humble person isn’t “always telling you that, of course, he is nobody”.
      They fit well in their skin. 😀

  4. Ironically, the humblest person I know is also the most educated person that I am friends with. Even my kids have noticed it. She takes a personal interest in each of them as if they were the only person in the world. When she asked me to dinner, years ago, I was amazed that she would bother with me. She is a living example of Jesus. I love her.

    Blessings ~ Wendy

    1. Wendy –
      Yes! I would say the same. One of the humblest men I know, is also the smartest. I think everyone comes away from conversations with him feeling valued and encouraged. He’s got the gift (probably a true tell) of making you feel like you’re fascinating when you talk together because he’s so entirely focused on you during the conversation – which is actually a pretty unusal thing.
      You’re blessed to have someone with such a rare tell in your life. 😀

  5. I love this take on humility… I was told once that humility is not acting like your not good at what you do or that you are not skilled, to say that sometimes would be lying. Humility is the understanding that while you may be great at what you do it is not “your fault” that you are that way.

    Great post though…really lifted my understanding

    1. Hello Jed and welcome to TMG!
      Sure sounds like we’re reading the same book…
      We’re even on the same page right now!
      Thanks so much for spending a few moments here and for sharing your thoughts with us.

  6. I’ve always been quietly amused as I hear one of the men stand and, in part of their testimony, thank God for making them humble. I think I know what they mean but it sounds just the opposite. We get a lot of practice at learning the “tells”. And Henry could play poker! My Henry, not yours 😉

    Most thought-provoking and a good way to start a Monday.

    1. Debby –
      I guess that’s the difference between being “humbled” and being “humble”.:D
      So your Henry can read tells! What an excellent trait for a leader to have – a careful observer of others.
      My Henry passing on poker and to be honest, he cheats at Cribbage but I pretend not to notice. 😉

      1. No, my Henry doesn’t have tells. Few people can read him, including me! I have the “gut” instinct 😉 I think your Henry is as adorable as mine!

  7. Sometimes I think that inexplicable ‘draw’ that a stranger has for me is just what you’re talking about–humility. I don’t think I know how to recognize it. Going to be thinking about that for today!

    “But humility isn’t a self hyphenated state. The humble person doesn’t think of himself as humble. As Lewis says, the humble person will not be thinking about himself at all.” This is profound.

    I really love this post. The last paragraph made me snort! You’re so witty, Debbie.

    I’m on a ‘tell’ hunt today! Thanks for the inspiration.

    1. Heidi – I so agree with you. I think truly humble people have that inexplicable draw. We think of them of pleasant and engaging and probably miss the humility altogether until we sit back and think of it.
      If you’re on a tell hunt, I’d better shape up! 😀

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