Rev. Fr. Roy Cimagala
OFTEN understood as a lowly and useless virtue, humility actually enhances our humanity. It is what keeps our dignity as persons and as children of God in a realistic way. Many times, we fall victim to our own illusions and delusions about ourselves, and the many other ways and forms, very subtle at that, that pride can blind and mislead us.
For example, we always like to get our own way, or to make ourselves the hero in a particular situation while diminishing the role of the others, or we can even speak badly about ourselves, so that the others may form a good opinion of us, etc. Conceit grips us. We have to be keenly aware of the deceptive ways and tricks of pride.
Humility clears our vision, showing both our wretchedness and our greatness. Thus it is indispensable in our life. Without humility, nothing of real value would develop in our life.
Without humility, we cannot obey properly, we cannot understand things and love others, we cannot find meaning in our adversities nor the real blessing in our successes and victories.
Without humility, we cannot be fair, we tend to be self-righteous, we cannot appreciate well the views of the others, we tend to complicate matters as we sort out and resolve our differences and conflicts.
Without humility, we cannot truly know ourselves. We become blind as we lock ourselves up in our self-centeredness, self-sufficiency, self-absorption, self-justification, self-assertion and self-satisfaction. We cannot escape from our own world. We will always think we are better than others.
Without humility, there is no way we can persevere in our efforts to do good, and much less, to grow in our spiritual life. We become easy prey to our weaknesses and the temptations around. To persist in developing other virtues and to wage continuing ascetical struggle would hold no charm to us.
We have to understand though that humility is a function of our self-knowledge that in turn is a function of our knowledge and love for God. It’s he who knows us objectively. After all, he is our Creator and Father. And he intervenes in our life all the time. He is never far nor indifferent to us.
We should disabuse ourselves to gain self-knowledge by simply relying on some self-analysis using human sciences, like philosophy, psychology or sociology, etc., that are not inspired by our effort to know God better. That approach can only produce fantasies and bloated, distorted ideas about ourselves.
St. Augustine expressed this truth well. “Let me know you, O you who know me. Then shall I know even as I am known.” How important therefore to have a running conversation with God! Otherwise, we would be out on a limb.
Let’s understand that humility can only develop in us if we pray, if we wage an abiding interior struggle—developing virtues and battling temptations and sins—if we do sincere examination of conscience regularly and conscientiously, if we always rectify our intention.
Without these means, we can never have dominion over the notorious enemies of our soul and of God. These are our concupiscence of the eyes, concupiscence of the flesh, and the pride of life.
Especially when we notice our talents and other blessings and privileges we enjoy in life, we should see to it that we burn in humility. St. Peter has something to say about this.
He said: “Each one of you has received a special grace, so, like good stewards responsible for all these different graces of God, put yourselves at the service of others. If you are a speaker, speak in words which seem to come from God. If you are a helper, help as though every action was done in God’s orders.
“So that in everything God may receive the glory, through Jesus Christ, since to him alone belong all the glory and power forever and ever.” (1 Pt 4,10-11)
Our problem is that we always tend to grab the credit for ourselves even if we know that everything comes from God. We like to flaunt the good things we have, and we become extremely embarrassed when our weaknesses and mistakes get known.
We should realize that humility involves some kind of abandonment of our own selves, unafraid of being known as we are. When we commit mistakes, we, like the prodigal son, should go back to God whose delight it is to forgive and to strengthen us. Yes, humility is what leads us to ask for forgiveness when we fall.
Humility liberates us from own foolishness.