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Path to Humility – What is Humility Anyway?

Definition of humility: freedom from pride or arrogance: the quality or state of being humble 

-Merriam-Webster Dictionary

Freedom from Pride…

Pride is probably my biggest problem and yet God has His little way of helping me with it. It’s very hard to stay proud when my shoe slips off while I’m walking back to my seat after communion or when I walk into the wall, door, or basically any stationary object as if it just jumped in front of me. A couple years ago, I had the wonderful experience of having my Christmas tree fall on me. I was alone for that one, but I thought I was going to die and was envisioning the news headline… “Christmas Tree Kills Woman on New Year’s Eve While Home Alone, Cats Alert Neighbors.” I’m not saying that God caused this, but that He allowed it to happen. – He also healed my arm, but that’s a story for another day.  

While these situations have helped to humble me, I must fight against my pride and allow God to change me. I’m currently reading Humility Rules: Saint Benedict’s 12-Step Guide to Genuine Self-Esteem by J. Augustine Wetta, a Benedictine Monk. It is a quick and easy explanation of the “Ladder of Humility” from Saint Benedict’s book The Rule.

12 Steps to Humility

1 2 3 4 5

6

Fear of God Self-Denial Obedience Perseverance Repentance

Serenity

7

8 9 10 11

12

Self-Abasement Prudence Silence Dignity Discretion

Reverence

To some, it might sound easy, but for me it’s not. I have to keep going back and re-reading, because really, I didn’t even know what humility was or how far deep my pride had gone. Pride is one of those sins that blinds you to its ways while it feeds other sins or can even make your good works go bad. Saint Paul said “Sin, in order that it might be shown to be sin, worked death in me through the good, so that sin might become sinful beyond measure through the commandment” (Romans 7:13). Therefore, God’s law, which our soul delights in, is going to be in battle against the law of sin, which our human body still dwells in, so much so that even when we are doing good work we must fight against our own sinful inclinations. Specifically, when it comes to pride we have to fight against taking credit for the good work and at the same time not downgrade God’s work in us. After all, it is only by Grace that we are able to follow God’s commandments to begin with.

Speaking of Grace…

Our Blessed Mother Mary had the most perfect and humble response to God’s work in her life: “he has looked upon his handmaid’s lowliness; behold, from now on will all ages call me blessed. The Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name” (Luke 1: 48-49). When we really look at this, Mary doesn’t claim that she was blessed because of anything she did and at the same time, she doesn’t downgrade how important God’s work in her is. In other words, Mary is saying, “I am a lowly servant, but will be forever known for being blessed by God because of the things He has done for me.”

Furthermore, Mary doesn’t greet this potentially dangerous and humiliating situation with fear or worry. After all, Joseph, and probably everyone else, knows he isn’t the father. Here she is facing the unknown path before her which, according to Jewish law at that time, includes the possibilities of being stoned or divorced. Yet, she never concerns herself with avoiding these situations by her own words or actions, only on doing what God has asked her to do. In complete trust, she leaves it to God to change the hearts of others, including Joseph. Mary knows that God is greater than she is. No sense of entitlement, no fear, no worry… just love, joy, and total trust in God. All of this shows what true humility is.

However, the humility shown by our Blessed Mother Mary, who was conceived without sin (see CCC 491), is not natural to the rest of us. We are more like St. Paul, constantly struggling with the inclinations of sin, also known as concupiscence (see CCC 1264).

It’s A Matter of Survival…

In my fight against pride, I’ve noticed a certain survival instinct kick in and it makes sense that it would. St. Paul puts it this way “The concern of the flesh is death, but the concern of the spirit is life and peace” (Romans 8:6). To look at it another way the concern of the flesh is survival and comfort in the physical sense (how do I stay alive according to the rules of this world). Its concern is with our physical, mental, and emotional needs that we have because they aid this survival. When we look beyond that, and into eternal life with Christ and the survival of our soul, then we must only concern ourselves with things of God and guard ourselves from worries, fears and other things that lead us away from Him. Therefore, my true survival (eternal salvation) is dependent on God and my cooperation with His Will. Not on anyone else’s opinion of me and definitely not in my actions alone.

Path to Humility…

Of course, knowing this is not enough and moments arise when I stumble. I know what I’m supposed to do, but doing it is hard especially when pride has blinded me to its ways. I’ve found that instead of focusing on rooting out pride it is better to focus on practicing humility which brings me back to the 12-Steps to Humility. So this starts my new adventure on God’s path and in future posts, I’m going to share these moments as I make my way up the ladder of Humility and by God’s grace become free from pride.

 

Featured Books:

Humility Rules: Saint Benedict’s Twelve-Step Guide to Genuine Self-Esteem by J. Augustine Wetta, O.S.B.

Catechism of the Catholic Church, by U.S. Catholic Church

Other Books You Might Be Interested In: 

The Rule of Benedict by Saint Benedict

A Guide to Living in the Truth: St. Benedict’s Teaching on Humility

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