Skip to comments.Humility is Hard
Posted on 08/10/2015 6:45:11 AM PDT by Salvation
Pride is our most pervasive and serious sin; humility is its antidote and the foundation of our spiritual life. And as the remedy to our most deep-seated pathology, it must be strong medicine. Humility is hard to swallow and has a lot of things it needs to work on.
Lets consider humility under a number of headings.
I. The Foundation of Humility – Indeed, humility as a foundation is a good image, since by it we bow toward the earth or soil (humus in Latin) and abase ourselves before God. Foundations and holes in the earth go together.
By humility we understand that we are small, poor, barely more than dust and water. If God does not scoop us from the earth, we are nothing. Only by His command is the mysterious spark and organizational principle of life ignited. We are wholly dependent on God; our life is contingent. We do not explain ourselves at all. We are dependent not only on our parents (who cannot explain themselves either), we are dependent on Gods purely gratuitous act of summoning us from dust. We are given existence by Him who is existence itself.
And we are given not merely existence, but something mysterious called life.
Think you have life figured out? Think you can define it? Hmm Imagine before you an acorn and a small rock of similar size. One (the acorn) has the mysterious spark of life in it; the other does not. Plant both in the earth and add water. One transforms into a mighty oak; the other remains unchanged for thousands of years. What is the difference between the acorn and the rock? Life, you say. Well, tell me what that is. Can you weigh it in a scale? Can you see its essence under a microscope? We see lifes effects, but we do not see it. We detect its absence, but where has it gone? What exactly departs when a human, an animal, or a plant dies?
And thus humility, like a foundation, bids us to bow low to the earth and admit that we know very little. Even the most basic thing (life) that enables everything else eludes us and taunts us by its mystery.
II. The First Humility – When it comes to humility, we distinguish a humility toward God and a humility toward others. Humility toward God is simple (and first and foremost) because our duty in that regard is clear. There is no ambiguity in comparing ourselves to Him who is perfection, glory, and purity.
Humility toward others, though, has ambiguities that can only be resolved by reference to God. For not everything in another person is superior to us; not everything in others is perfect truth or purity.
But indeed, our first humility is toward God. And by it we recognize that we are nothing without Him. But even more, no good work of ours, not even the slightest salutary act, can happen without the grace of God. This is the first humility.
III. The Finding of Humility – Humility also recognizes that neither do we have meaning, direction or purpose apart from God. And thus we must look to the Book of Creation and the Book of Scripture, the Word of God, to discover and obey the truth and meaning given by God in what is created and what is revealed.
Atheists and materialists boldly assert that nothing has meaning, purpose, direction, or sense. They hold that everything that has happened is by chance, a random, meaningless crashing together of atoms (wherever they came from). But even atheists cannot seem to accept or live by their radical theory. Only one of them, Nietzsche, was ever brave enough to really live in a meaningless world. And he died insane.
But for us who would seek for humility, we must sit before what God has created and what God has revealed in Scripture, humbly observing, learning, and obeying what God teaches us there. We do not simply project meaning; we must humbly seek it, find it, and obey the truth and meaning of things.
IV. The Frank Truth of Humility – Humility also admits the frank and obvious truth that we are sinners. We have base, selfish, and narrow hearts that are strangely attracted by what we know is harmful and resistant to what we know is good. Our wills are inconsistent, vacillating, whimsical, and yet at the same time stubborn. We tend to maximize the minimum and minimize the maximum. Our darkened minds seem almost to prefer foolish and dubious explanations to what is clear, common sense, and obviously true. We almost seem to want others to lie to us. We love to rationalize and daydream. Knowing a little we think we know it all. Frankly, we are a mess. We are only saved with difficulty and because God is powerful, patient, and abundant in grace and mercy.
V. The Fellowship of Humility – St. Thomas Aquinas says quite poetically, Wherefore, every man, in respect to what is his own, should subject himself to every neighbor in respect to what the neighbor has of Gods (Summa Theologica IIa IIae 161, a 3). For indeed, our neighbor has many things from God that are to be respected. They have things which we share, but also many things that we do not have at all. I do not have all the gifts; you do not have all the gifts; but together we have all the gifts. But we have them all only by mutual respect and humble submission. And thus our humility toward others is really humility toward God, who wills that others should be part of His governance of us, and of our completion.
But note, too, a careful distinction that flows from what St. Thomas teaches in regard to humility toward others. It is not to be reduced to mere human respect or flattery, or rooted in worldly and servile fear. True humility has us abase ourselves before others based on what is of God in them. The humble person does not abase himself before others for what is wicked in them. Indeed, many holy and humble people have had to rebuke the wicked and suffer because of it.
Consider our Lord, who found it necessary to rebuke the leaders of His day. Consider John the Baptist, who rebuked Herod; or the Apostles, who refused the command to speak Jesus name no longer. These were humble men, but they also knew that the first humility belongs to God, and that no humility toward human beings can ever eclipse or overrule the humility due to God.
Therefore the modern notion of Who am I to judge? is not proper humility. Rather, it is rooted more in a kind of sloth (cloaked in the self-congratulatory language of tolerance) that avoids humbly seeking truth and being conformed to it. The truly humble person is open to correcting others and to being corrected, because humility always regards the truth.
VI. The Focus of Humility – And that lead us finally to a kind of focal statement about humility: Humility is reverence for the truth about ourselves. Indeed, the focus of humility is always the truth.
And what is the truth? You are gifted, but incomplete.
Humility doesnt say, Aw shucks, Im nothing. That is not true. You are Gods creation and are imbued with gifts. But note this: they are gifts. You did not acquire them on your own. God gave them to you. And most often, He gave them to you through others who raised you, taught you, and helped you to attain the skills and discover the gifts that were within you. So you do have gifts. But they are gifts. Scripture says, What have you that you have not received? And if you have received, why do you glory as though you had not received? (1 Cor 4:7)
But though you are gifted, you do not have all the gifts. And this is the other truth of humility: that God and others must augment your many deficiencies. For whatever your gifts, and however numerous they are, you do not have all the gifts or even most of them. That is only possible in relationship with God and His people.
Ok, admit it, true humility is tough. And if you dont think so, then try the test below from St. Anselm, who lists seven degrees of humility. How far along are you?
Here are St. Anselms degrees of humility (as quoted in the Summa Theologica IIa IIae q. 161a. 6):
1. to acknowledge oneself contemptible,
2. to grieve on account of it,
3. to confess it,
4. to convince others to believe this,
5. to bear patiently that this be said of us,
6. to suffer oneself to be treated with contempt, and
7. to love being thus treated
In this video do you think that Lancelot might be struggling just a bit with pride?
He eventually came to the conclusion that he could never achieve it, because if he ever did, he would become proud of how humble he was.
Humility in action.
When you understand & agree with what youre being asked to do, thats not obedience.
St Faustina: the devil can mimic a humble man, but never an obedient one.
Monsignor Pope Ping!
Memo to Donald Trump.
Thank you for a very good article today!
Humility is most properly the fruit of the virtue of (true) pride which acknowledges ones successes and understands their source (God). False humility is (false) pride (superbia) which is destructive self loathing.
A good word indeed, and I have pointed out to many that the one characteristic/trait of the Lord Jesus that is most lacking in today’s Christian leaders is.............humility.
But the article lacks a couple truths:
We can no more be humble than we can climb to the moon.
We are proud. God hates pride, and “resists the proud.”, is against the proud. How wise is it to have God against you?
What will bring humility?
God tells us to HUMBLE OURSELVES which is an action that can, as the author points out, eventually result in humility being produced in us.
Seeing God as He is will produce humility in us. Pride simply tells us (and others) that we do not know God.
We must, in God’s light and revelation, see our own pride and how truly ugly it is. Like the little yapper dogs smaller than cats yapping at the elephant.....absurd.
We have two choices: humble ourselves - or let God humble us.
Luke 17:11 Jesus tells us the attitude we should have “AFTER WE HAVE DONE ALL HE HAS COMMANDED” (who can claim to have done such?) is, “I am an unprofitable servant, and unworthy slave.”
Interestingly, that is His answer to the disciples question on how to have more faith............
Humility is good, but false humility is manipulative arrogance.
Humility isn’t hard.
It is impossible.
What is possible is to humble ourselves before God - and others.....
“Therefore the modern notion of Who am I to judge? is not proper humility. Rather, it is rooted more in a kind of sloth (cloaked in the self-congratulatory language of tolerance) that avoids humbly seeking truth and being conformed to it. The truly humble person is open to correcting others and to being corrected, because humility always regards the truth.”
I wonder if Msgr. Pope runs the risk of touching a Papal nerve.
I would add one more thing: Franklin's admonition concerning humility was "imitate Jesus and Socrates." AFAIK B.F. never explains this, though the implication is fairly obvious: the willingness to give up everything one is, for the sake of one's devotion to what, or to Whom, one swears allegiance.
Yet this leads to a deep conundrum. If one gives up everything one is for the sake of Him to whom one has sworn allegiance, the zeal that will consume one will almost certainly be misinterpreted as arrogance. Consider when Jesus overthrows the money tables in the Temple. His act is out of pure devotion to the Father, an act of pure selfless humility; those who understand this realize that He is fulfilling the prophecy of Psalm 69:9, that zeal for His Father's house had consumed him. But to all the rest who saw it, His act looked like the pinnacle of arrogance: "who did this hick from Galilee think he was," they thought, "to place himself above the rulers of the Temple who had allowed the money changing, in order to preserve the sanctity of the Temple? He needs to be put down hard, or other people will think they can get away with whatever they feel like doing." Most people, in that situation, would define "humility" as submitting to the will of the Temple rulers, but Jesus knew better.
Just as, in his own way, Socrates knew better, when he was offered the chance to wriggle out of his death sentence by apologizing, and later by being smuggled into exile, and in both cases he saw through the false humility to the true humility. The false humility would be to submit to the authorities, and what made it false would be that he would be placing his life above the law, which is a self-serving, arrogant act; the true humility would be to submit to the law, even when the law was executing an innocent man, because of his devotion to the law.
Which leads to two more points. First, the run-of-the-mill Pharisees who opposed Jesus did not have a devotion to Torah; rather, they had a devotion to their own justification as defined by their interpretation of Torah, which was arrogant on two counts: they were concerned with saving their own skins, not with the God who wanted to save them, and they placed themselves in the seat of God, as interpreters, defining for themselves what they decided God meant when God wrote the Law. That is why Jesus excoriates them, because they said they were devoted to the Law, when they were in fact devoted to themselves. (A lesson for me there, not one I enjoy learning.)
Second, when Jesus talked about the Law, He talked, not about what others thought it said, but what it actually meant: that is why, even though he was being humble, the people heard Him "as one having authority, and not as the scribes" (Matt. 7:29, the response to the Sermon on the Mount). Humility never looks like humility; it always looks like authority.
Typical of Franklin, and actually there is so much truth to that statement. Vanity, all is Vanity.
Life keeps giving me reasons to be humble.
Good observation. Thanks for the story.
**St Faustina: the devil can mimic a humble man, but never an obedient one.**
That’s a powerful one. But now that I think of it, it makes perfect sense. The devil would never obey God or Christ or the Holy Spirit.
So when we feel tempted we need to just pray those names.
God the Father
Christ the Son
Holy Spirit the eternal guide.
Thanks for this.
George Washington is my favorite President, but Franklin is my favorite founder.
His Bishop pulled one of his columns. Can’t remember what the topic was.
Jesus showed us how to be humble.
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