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The word "humiliate" carries very negative connotations; is there a verb for "making someone humble" or "giving someone humility" in a positive way?

For instance, "Having children of my own humiliated me" isn't the best choice of words.

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If I may monologue, I like to think of humiliate as someone else thrusting humility onto an unwilling target, hence the negative connotation. –  IQAndreas Dec 25 '13 at 14:24
    
Also consider enlightened. Not humble based but conveys a new perspective. –  bib Dec 25 '13 at 15:08

4 Answers 4

up vote 7 down vote accepted

I think the verb humble is at least more neutral than humiliate, although the connotation might not be specifically positive.

Some examples via COCA from various sources:

That's the sign that little Melipona, messenger of the gods, has been trying to deliver all along. The missive is so literal, I can't help but feel humbled - and connected. The message is simple and sweet.

It's so amazing to have my name on a list with these other women. I feel very humbled by it. I just feel honored.

I don't think these examples carry the negative connotation that humiliate does.

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Beware though, humiliated is one of the meanings of humbled used exactly the same way in some contexts. –  Kris Dec 25 '13 at 13:16
    
@Kris Hence neutral rather than specifically positive, as I said. –  snailboat Dec 25 '13 at 13:20
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@Kris Yep. That's what neutral means: it's neither negative nor positive itself. –  snailboat Dec 25 '13 at 13:21
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@Kris - humbled is neutral, dependent on context, and <b>the</b> perfect word here: parenting is a humbling experience. Have you any children? If you do, and are not humbled by the experience, you must be a perfect parent. Positive context: I am humbled by your kindness. Negative context: I was humbled by my poor performance. Neutral (but hopeful): Parenting is a humbling experience. –  medica Dec 26 '13 at 5:46
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@Susan May you have some more nice children. –  Kris Dec 26 '13 at 6:52

Perhaps a slight variation on humiliate -

"Having children of my own gave me a new humility."

While they both come from the same Latin roots, humiliate now means

to hurt the pride or dignity of by causing to be or seem foolish or contemptible; mortify

but humility means

the state or quality of being humble; absence of pride or self-assertion

This is not a negative connotation, but neutral to positive.

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You say it "humiliate now means". Do you know if it carried a different connotation in the past? –  IQAndreas Dec 25 '13 at 14:23
    
@IQAndreas Both words come from Latin roots for humble. To make humble is much less negative than humiliate (which implies shame). I temporalized it simply because I don't know how it was used in the 19th, 18th, 17th centuries. –  bib Dec 25 '13 at 14:26

If you are going for a meaning along the lines of being less accepting, less harsh or strident, or more mature or developed, you could consider mellowed, matured, or softened. These are all positive attributes.

"Having children of my own softened me."

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Hmm... I suppose it depends on the exact sentence it is being used in, but a possible replacement might be "enlighten" Both 'humble' and 'humiliate' usually occur when information is revealed or someone learns something; for example, you might be humbled when you learn a friend gave a bunch of his paycheck to cover your rent when he knew your budget was tight, or you might be humiliated when you learn your coworkers are talking behind your back.

On the other hand, if you learn something that betters you, like the 'having children' example you gave, you could call yourself 'enlightened' instead.

Hope that is useful to you.

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I don't think I have ever heard neither 'humble' nor 'humiliate' used that way. Both words have to do with pride (see the definitions posted in @bib's answer). –  IQAndreas Dec 25 '13 at 14:51

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