The Virtue of Humility
There is a story of a nineteenth century Christian army general who was leading some troops on an exercise in the countryside. While his troops were resting, he stopped to speak with a poor beggar woman. One of his officers came up to him and said, “Sir, you should remember your rank and not speak with someone so below your social level.” The general replied, “What if Our Lord Jesus Christ had considered His rank?”
Fortunately for us, Our Lord humbled Himself so much by becoming as one of us to save us. And in today’s readings He teaches us to exercise humility in our dealings with other people. If we live humbly we won’t be embarrassed. By taking the lower place, we avoid the possibility of humiliation, but we might also be honoured by being asked to take the higher place.
The opposite of humility is pride. Pride was the sin that transformed Lucifer, the highest and most beautiful of all the angels into the evil, hideous creature we call Satan, the father of lies. He said, “Non serviam!” “I will not serve.” But then it was humility that enabled the young maiden Mary to become the Mother of Our Lord and to be exalted as Queen of the Universe forever.
We ought to realise that anything good we have, all our talents, whatever they may be are a gift of God. The only things we can really claim for ourselves are our defects and sins. And it may be that when others fail in things where we have succeeded, God may have given us greater gifts, greater graces, which is surely a motive for us to have greater humility? St Thérèse of Lisieux would ask God’s forgiveness not only for the sins she had committed, but also for those she would have committed had she not been given so many graces!
So practically speaking how can we practice this virtue? Humility can mean letting the other person decide and not always insisting on our own way. It might mean praising and complementing others so as to detract from ourselves. It can mean giving others the benefit of the doubt and not judging them harshly. And it also means admitting our mistakes, apologising to those we may have offended, and forgiving those who have offended us. And then be thankful to God for all the blessings, talents and gifts He has given to you and then try to use them for His glory.
Fr Paul Gillham, IC