Humility is the virtue that enables all the others. It is easier to be Charitable, Kind, Patient, Chaste, Temperate and Diligent if we are first Humble. Humility starts with gratitude. To be grateful for the past that has made us who we are today, and for the opportunity ahead to be all that we can be. The few, the humble, the aspiring saints.
What can stop us? If God is for us, who can be against us? Only ourselves with our foolish pride. Pride is the deadliest of the deadly sins. It leads to all the other vices. To Greed, Envy, Wrath, Lust, Gluttony and Sloth. Humility is our secret weapon to defeat them all. Consistently practicing this one virtue will drastically improve our odds of becoming the saints we are all meant to be.
God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. (1 Peter 5:5)
“Whoever exalts himself will be humbled; but whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” (Matthew 23:12)
Humility is a modest opinion of one’s own importance. Modest, humble, servile, respectful, deferential. Pride is an excessively high opinion of oneself. Narcissism, vanity, vainglory, arrogance, conceit, bigheadedness, smugness, self-importance, egotism, superiority, immodesty.
C.S. Lewis gave three reasons for labeling pride as the deadliest sin; (1) the devil became the devil through pride, (2) pride is the cause of every other vice and (3) pride is a completely anti-God and anti-others state of mind. It directly violates the Greatest Commandments by putting ourselves first. He sums it all up by saying:
“There is one vice of which no man in the world is free; which everyone in the world loathes when he sees it in someone else; and of which hardly any people, except Christians, ever imagine that they are guilty of themselves.”
“There is no fault which makes a man more unpopular, and no fault which we are more unconscious of in ourselves. And the more we have it ourselves, the more we dislike it in others.”
Pride is a lust for power over everyone else. To be in control. To always get our way. An attitude of do it my way, no compromise, always right, can do no wrong, don’t care what anyone else thinks, says or does. Pride says, “My will be done.”
Humility says, “Thy will be done.” We exist to serve God, and He wants us to serve others. We do that by striving to become our best self. By developing and utilizing our talents to help others. And behaving in a virtuous manner. This is the only way to achieve lasting happiness.
“If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all.” (Mark 9:35)
Do nothing out of selfishness or out of vainglory; rather, humbly regard others as more important than yourselves. (Philippians 2:3)
God’s point of view regarding pride is quite clear. But it has opposing meanings in our society. The first two dictionary definitions I found were positive: (1) a sense of one’s own proper dignity or value; self-respect, and (2) pleasure or satisfaction taken in an achievement, possession, or association. Quite different than the “excessively high opinion…” version.
We are told to take pride in ourselves. To have confidence in ourselves. To rely upon ourselves. To take credit for our achievements. To be self-promoters. Alternatively, humility is often associated with weakness. Being passive, submissive or insecure. Nice guys finish last. You will certainly be swimming upstream in our culture by valuing humility over pride.
“A dead thing can go with the stream, but only a living thing can go against it.” G.K. Chesterton
Truly humble people are actually quite the opposite of what we’ve been led to believe. Humility is thinking less about yourself, not less of yourself. It is a quiet confidence. Striving for excellence in all that you do. Selflessly serving others. Seeing the value in all people. Seeking wisdom and truth. Boldly standing up for what is right and just. Working collaboratively with others to make the world a better place. Giving credit and taking blame. Letting your actions speak louder than your words. Walking your talk. Humbly turning yourself over to God for guidance and strength. Doing it His way rather than yours. Thy will be done.
Interestingly, we all start out humble. We are dependent on our parents for survival. Is having our diaper changed the first lesson in humility? Then we start to learn. The more we learn, the more pride we build. It doesn’t take long. As teenagers we know it all. Thankfully we still have parents around to tell us differently. We act as if we don’t believe them, but we know better. Then…
I was just struck by the thought that our pride kicks into high gear at the moment we choose to stop learning. When we think we know it all. Or at least know enough to survive on our own. When we believe we are no longer dependent on anyone else. Our personal independence day. The day we exalt ourselves. That is a sad day for God. The day you place yourself over Him.
This is a dangerous place to live. Trouble is, it can also be a place where you can thrive in this world. Until eventually you are humbled by some event. It will happen. And when it does, guess what? You will naturally do the things a humble person does. You will depend on others to pull you through the hardship. Maybe even to change your diaper. And you will come back to God. He didn’t want it to have to be that way, but He is glad you are back.
Of course a better way is to never reach that prideful state in the first place. Place God first in your life now. Be dependent upon Him. Maintain an attitude of gratitude. Keep on learning. Serve others. Be humble. “Stay gold Ponyboy.” Seems like an appropriate quote from the classic book “The Outsiders” by S.E. Hinton. You will likely often feel like an outsider in your quest to defeat pride with humility.
Here’s a humility challenge for you…and me. Think of something you have always “kind of” wanted to do. Kind of meaning, you have thought about it briefly and then immediately put it out of your mind as something you know little about, and you feel less than optimistic about your chances of success. So you dismiss it. It might even scare you. For instance, dancing or singing in public would fit the criteria for me.
Your assignment is to create your list of possibilities, pick one to work on, share it with someone else and set a date by which you will humble yourself by at least trying to do it. When you do, notice how you naturally do the things a humble person does. Finally, take the lessons learned from the experience and replicate them into your everyday life. And let me know how it goes. I chose dancing…well assuming Melanie agrees…and our friend Holly agrees to teach us.
Success! We have now learned how to defeat all of the seven deadly sins with their contrary virtues. Thank you for reading. I hope you have learned as much as I have. And that you have put at least some of it into practice already.
Next week I’ll give you a simple way to pull it all together. In the meantime…
Be Saintspirational! Scott