Journal of Religion and Health

, Volume 58, Issue 1, pp 132–152 | Cite as

Humility, Relational Spirituality, and Well-being among Religious Leaders: A Moderated Mediation Model

  • Peter J. JankowskiEmail author
  • Steven J. Sandage
  • Chance A. Bell
  • Elizabeth G. Ruffing
  • Chris Adams
Original Paper


Prior research has demonstrated positive associations between general humility and well-being, and posited a protective effect for intellectual humility against maladjustment among religious leaders. We tested a model that extended findings on general humility to include intellectual humility among religious leaders (N = 258; M age = 42.31; 43% female; 63.7% White; 91.9% Christian affiliation). We observed a positive general humility–well-being association. Contrary to expectations, we observed risk effects for religion-specific intellectual humility. Our findings also point to the possibility that these risk effects might be attenuated by the integration of high levels of general and intellectual humility.


Intellectual humility Differentiation of self Attachment to God Religious leaders 



This study was funded by the John Templeton Foundation (grant number 60622).

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Declaration of Helsinki and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


  1. Arbuckle, J. L. (2013). IBM SPSS Amos 22 user’s guide. Chicago, IL: IBM.Google Scholar
  2. Ball, R. G., & Puls, D. (2015). Frequency of narcissistic personality disorder in pastors: A preliminary study. Paper presented at the annual conference of the American Association of Christian Counselors, Nashville, TN.Google Scholar
  3. Beck, R., & Jessup, R. K. (2004). The multidimensional nature of quest motivation. Journal of Psychology and Theology, 32, 283–294.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bloom, M., & Adams, C. (2017). Flourishing in ministry: Wellbeing at work in helping professions. Journal of Psychology and Christianity, 36, 254–59.Google Scholar
  5. Byrne, B. M. (2010). Structural equation modeling with AMOS (2nd ed.). New York, NY: Routledge.Google Scholar
  6. Connelly, B. S., & Ones, D. S. (2010). An other perspective on personality: Meta-analytic integration of observers’ accuracy and predictive validity. Psychological Bulletin, 136, 1092–1122. Scholar
  7. Davis, D. E., Hook, J. N., Worthington, E. L., Jr., Van Tongeren, D. R., Gartner, A. L., Jennings, D. J., II, et al. (2011). Relational humility: Conceptualizing and measuring humility as a personal judgment. Journal of Personality Assessment, 93, 225–234. Scholar
  8. Davis, D. E., Rice, K., McElroy, S., DeBlaere, C., Choe, E., Van Tongeren, D. R., et al. (2016). Distinguishing intellectual humility and general humility. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 11, 215–224. Scholar
  9. Davis, D. E., Worthington, E. L., Jr., & Hook, J. N. (2010). Humility: Review of measurement strategies and conceptualization as personal judgment. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 5, 243–252. Scholar
  10. Davis, D. E., Worthington, E. L., Hook, J. N., Emmons, R. A., Hill, P. C., Bollinger, R. A., et al. (2013). Humility and the development and repair of social bonds: Two longitudinal studies. Self & Identity, 12, 58–77. Scholar
  11. DeCoster, J., & Iselin, A. (2009). Simple slopes for a 2-way interaction. [Excel Spreadsheet]. Retrieved from
  12. Drake, J. R., Murdock, N. L., Marszalek, J. M., & Barber, C. E. (2015). Differentiation of self inventory—Short form: Development and preliminary validation. Contemporary Family Therapy, 37, 101–112. Scholar
  13. Evans, C., Connell, J., Barkham, M., Margison, F., McGrath, G., Mellor-Clark, J., et al. (2002). Towards a standardised brief outcome measure: Psychometric properties and utility of the CORE-OM. The British Journal of Psychiatry, 180, 51–60.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Evans, C., Mellor-Clark, J., Margison, F., Barkham, M., Audin, K., Connell, J., et al. (2000). CORE: Clinical outcomes in routine evaluation. Journal of Mental Health, 9, 247–255. Scholar
  15. Fatter, D. M., & Hayes, J. A. (2013). What facilitates countertransference management? The roles of therapist meditation, mindfulness, and self-differentiation. Psychotherapy Research, 5, 502–512. Scholar
  16. Francis, L. J. (2015). The science of clergy work-related psychological health, stress, burnout and coping strategies: Introduction to the special section. Research in the Social Scientific Study of Religion, 26, 123–140.Google Scholar
  17. Granqvist, P. (2005). Building a bridge between attachment and religious coping: Tests of moderators and mediators. Mental Health, Religion & Culture, 8, 35–47. Scholar
  18. Hall, T. W., & Edwards, K. E. (2002). The Spiritual Assessment Inventory: A theistic model and measure for assessing spiritual development. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 41, 341–357.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Hill, P. C., Laney, E. K., & Edwards, K. J. (2015). Measuring humility: Development and validation of two self-report measures of general and intellectual humility. Paper presented at the annual conference of the American Psychological Association, Toronto, ON.Google Scholar
  20. Hook, J. N., Davis, D. E., Van Tongeren, D. R., Hill, P. C., Worthington, E. J., Farrell, J. E., et al. (2015). Intellectual humility and forgiveness of religious leaders. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 10, 499–506. Scholar
  21. Hook, J. N., Farrell, J. E., Johnson, K. A., Van Tongeren, D. R., Davis, D. E., & Aten, J. D. (2017). Intellectual humility and religious tolerance. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 12, 29–35. Scholar
  22. Hopkin, C. R., Hoyle, R. H., & Toner, K. (2014). Intellectual humility and reactions to opinions about religious beliefs. Journal of Psychology and Theology, 42, 50–61.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Hoyle, R. H., Davisson, E. K., Diebels, K. J., & Leary, M. R. (2016). Holding specific views with humility: Conceptualization and measurement of specific intellectual humility. Personality and Individual Differences, 97, 165–172. Scholar
  24. Jankowski, P. J., & Sandage, S. J. (2014). Attachment to God and humility: Indirect effect and conditional effects models. Journal of Psychology and Theology, 42, 70–82.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Jankowski, P. J., Sandage, S. J., & Hill, P. C. (2013). Differentiation-based models of forgivingness, mental health and social justice commitment: Mediator effects for differentiation of self and humility. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 8, 412–424. Scholar
  26. Kerr, M. E., & Bowen, M. (1988). Family evaluation. New York, NY: W. W. Norton.Google Scholar
  27. Kline, R. B. (2011). Principles and practice of structural equation modeling. New York, NY: Guilford.Google Scholar
  28. Koenig, H. G. (2012). Religion, spirituality, and health: The research and clinical implications. ISRN Psychiatry, 2012, 1–33. Scholar
  29. Lamers, S. A., Westerhof, G. J., Bohlmeijer, E. T., ten Klooster, P. M., & Keyes, C. M. (2011). Evaluating the psychometric properties of the mental health Continuum-Short Form (MHC-SF). Journal of Clinical Psychology, 67, 99–110. Scholar
  30. Leary, M. R., Diebels, K. J., Davisson, E. K., Jongman-Sereno, K. P., Isherwood, J. C., Raimi, K. T., et al. (2017). Cognitive and interpersonal features of intellectual humility. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 43, 793–813. Scholar
  31. McElroy, S. E., Rice, K. G., Davis, D. E., Hook, J. N., Hill, P. C., Worthington, E. J., et al. (2014). Intellectual humility: Scale development and theoretical elaborations in the context of religious leadership. Journal of Psychology and Theology, 42, 19–30.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Monroe, N., & Jankowski, P. J. (2016). The effectiveness of a prayer intervention in promoting change in perceived attachment to God, positive affect, and psychological distress. Spirituality in Clinical Practice, 3(237), 249. Scholar
  33. Olsen, D. C., & Devor, N. G. (2015). Saying no to say yes: Everyday boundaries and pastoral excellence. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.Google Scholar
  34. Owens, B. P., Johnson, M. D., & Mitchell, T. R. (2013). Expressed humility in organizations: Implications for performance, teams, and leadership. Organization Science, 24, 1517–1538. Scholar
  35. Owens, B. P., Wallace, A. S., & Waldman, D. A. (2015). Leader narcissism and follower outcomes: The counterbalancing effect of leader humility. Journal of Applied Psychology, 100, 1203–1213. Scholar
  36. Paine, D. R., Jankowski, P. J., & Sandage, S. J. (2016). Humility as a predictor of intercultural competence: Mediator effects for differentiation-of-self. The Family Journal, 24, 15–22. Scholar
  37. Paine, D. R., Sandage, S. J., Rupert, D., Devor, N. G., & Bronstein, M. (2015). Humility as a psychotherapeutic virtue: Spiritual, philosophical, and psychological foundations. Journal of Spirituality in Mental Health, 17, 3–25. Scholar
  38. Preacher, K. J., & Selig, J. P. (2012). Advantages of Monte Carlo confidence intervals for indirect effects. Communications Methods and Measures, 6, 77–98. Scholar
  39. Proeschold-Bell, R. J., Eisenberg, A., Adams, C., Smith, B., Legrand, S., & Wilk, A. (2015). The glory of God is a human being fully alive: Predictors of positive versus negative mental health among clergy. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 54, 702–721. Scholar
  40. Proeschold-Bell, R., Yang, C., Toth, M., Corbitt Rivers, M., & Carder, K. (2014). Closeness to God among those doing God’s work: A spiritual well-being measure for clergy. Journal of Religion and Health, 53, 878–894. Scholar
  41. R Development Core Team. (2014). R: A language and environment for statistical computing [Computer software]. Vienna: R Foundation. Available from
  42. Regas, S. J., Kostick, K. M., Bakaly, J. W., & Doonan, R. L. (2017). Including the self-of-the-therapist in clinical training. Couple and Family Psychology: Research and Practice, 6, 18–31. Scholar
  43. Robbins, S. B., & Patton, M. J. (1985). Self-psychology and career development: Construction of the Superiority and Goal Instability scales. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 32, 221–231.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Rowatt, W., & Kirkpatrick, L. A. (2002). Two dimensions of attachment to God and their relation to affect, religiosity, and personality constructs. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 41, 637–651. Scholar
  45. Sandage, S. J., Jankowski, P. J., Bissonette, C. D., & Paine, D. R. (2017). Vulnerable narcissism, forgiveness, humility, and depression: Mediator effects for differentiation of self. Psychoanalytic Psychology, 34, 300–310. Scholar
  46. Sandage, S. J., Jankowski, P., Crabtree, S. A., & Schweer, M. (2015a). Attachment to God, adult attachment, and spiritual pathology: Mediator and moderator effects. Mental Health, Religion & Culture, 18, 795–808. Scholar
  47. Sandage, S. J., & Jensen, M. L. (2013). Relational spiritual formation: Reflective practice and research on spiritual formation in a seminary context. Reflective Practice: Formation and Supervision in Ministry, 33, 95–109.Google Scholar
  48. Sandage, S. J., Paine, D., & Hill, P. (2015b). Spiritual barriers to humility: A multidimensional study. Mental Health, Religion & Culture, 18, 207–217. Scholar
  49. Schoenleber, M., Roche, M. J., Wetzel, E., Pincus, A. L., & Roberts, B. W. (2015). Development of a brief version of the Pathological Narcissism Inventory. Psychological Assessment, 27, 1520–1526. Scholar
  50. Shults, F. L., & Sandage, S. J. (2006). Transforming spirituality: Integrating theology and psychology. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic.Google Scholar
  51. Skowron, E. A., & Dendy, A. K. (2004). Differentiation of self and attachment in adulthood: Relational correlates of effortful control. Contemporary Family Therapy, 26, 337–357. Scholar
  52. Skowron, E. A., & Schmitt, T. A. (2003). Assessing interpersonal fusion: Reliability and validity of a new DSI fusion with others subscale. Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, 29, 209–222. Scholar
  53. Van Tongeren, D. R., Stafford, J., Hook, J. N., Green, J. D., Davis, D. E., & Johnson, K. A. (2016). Humility attenuates negative attitudes and behaviors toward religious out-group members. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 11, 199–208. Scholar
  54. Vazire, S. (2010). Who knows what about a person? The self-other knowledge asymmetry (SOKA) model. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 98, 281–300. Scholar
  55. Weidman, A. C., Cheng, J. T., & Tracy, J. L. (2016). The psychological structure of humility. Journal of Personality and Social Psychologydoi. (Advance online publication).Google Scholar
  56. Weiss, D. S., & Marmar, C. R. (1997). the impact of event scale-revised. In J. P. Wilson & T. M. Keane (Eds.), Assessing psychological trauma and PTSD (pp. 399–411). New York, NY: Guilford.Google Scholar
  57. Wells, C. R. (2013). The effects of work-related and boundary-related stress on the emotional and physical health status of ordained clergy. Pastoral Psychology, 62, 101–114.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Whitcomb, D., Battaly, H., Baehr, J., & Howard-Snyder, D. (2017). Intellectual humility: Owning our limitations. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, 94, 509–539.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Wolfteich, C. E., Keefe-Perry, C., Sandage, S., & Paine, D. R. (2016a). Humility: Empirical psychological research in dialogue with practical theology—Part I. International Journal of Practical Theology, 20, 143–155. Scholar
  60. Wolfteich, C. E., Keefe-Perry, C., Sandage, S., & Paine, D. R. (2016b). Humility: Empirical psychological research in dialogue with practical theology—Part II. International Journal of Practical Theology, 20, 184–202. Scholar
  61. Woodruff, E., Van Tongeren, D. R., McElroy, S., Davis, D. E., & Hook, J. N. (2014). Humility and religion: Benefits, difficulties, and a model of religious tolerance. In C. Kim-Prieto (Ed.), Religion and spirituality across cultures (pp. 271–285). New York, NY: Springer. Scholar
  62. Worthington, E. J., & Sandage, S. J. (2016). Forgiveness and spirituality in psychotherapy: A relational approach. Washington: APA. Scholar
  63. Zhang, H., Hook, J. N., Farrell, J. E., Mosher, D. K., Van Tongeren, D. R., & Davis, D. E. (2016). The effect of religious diversity on religious belonging and meaning: The role of intellectual humility. Psychology of Religion and Spirituality. (Advance online publication).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Peter J. Jankowski
    • 1
    Email author
  • Steven J. Sandage
    • 2
  • Chance A. Bell
    • 2
  • Elizabeth G. Ruffing
    • 2
  • Chris Adams
    • 3
  1. 1.Counseling ProgramBethel UniversitySt. PaulUSA
  2. 2.Boston UniversityBostonUSA
  3. 3.Azusa Pacific SeminaryAzusaUSA

Personalised recommendations