What Humility Isn't
Let's Put Our Finger on the Virtue Most Pleasing to God
By Bryan Thatcher, MD (Jul 2, 2010)
It seems easier to define humility by what it isn't rather than by what it is. We know that in today's world of consumerism and materialism, humility is often viewed as a sign of weakness. Being meek and humble of heart is not a weakness! Scripture tells us "...whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted" (Mt 23:12). But do we really believe it, and even more importantly, do we practice it?
Pride, the vice involved and the opposite of humility, is the weakness! In spite of material wealth, it is the proud person who is spiritually bankrupt. Our Lord told St. Faustina, "The torrents of grace inundate humble souls. The proud remain always in poverty and misery, because My grace turns away from them to humble souls" (Diary, 1602). In our society, we are taught to be proud of many things: for example, our home, our children, and our work. It is certainly right to be thankful to God for graces bestowed. However, as time goes on, many carry things to the extreme, believing that good things are a result of superiority and talent and of our own doing. After all, what do we have that is not a gift from God? As all good comes from Him — life itself, natural talents, opportunities, the help of others — the only thing we can really offer back to Him are His own blessings and graces.
In today's society, winning is everything, no matter what the cost. The message conveyed is that "the one with the most toys wins." Yet, in God's eyes, it is the simple and humble soul that is most pleasing to Him. For that soul does things out of love for Him, recognizing that loving Him with our whole heart, our whole mind, and our whole body is what is most important. Father Sopocko, St. Faustina's spiritual director, told her, "Without humility, we cannot be pleasing to God. Practice the third degree of humility; that is, not only must one refrain from explaining and defending oneself when reproached with something, but one should rejoice at the humiliation" (Diary, 270).
How do we replace pride with humility? One way is to strive to be a servant of others, and look for small occasions daily to help others. Make an effort to see the beauty and presence of God in others. Battle against the notions that you "deserve" the closest parking place, that you "deserve" to be seated quickly at a restaurant with a waiting list, and that you can arrive at a dinner gathering whenever you get there. "Clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for 'God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble' " (1Pet 5:5). Another helpful exercise is a daily inventory of our relationship with God. When reflecting back on the day, did our daily actions give honor and glory to God?
The humble person also avoids being judgmental, as he knows he is a sinner and everything good comes from God. Saint Faustina wrote, "I must never judge anyone, but look at others with leniency and at myself with severity. I must refer everything to God" (Diary, 253). How easy it is for us to always criticize and condemn others; how easily we overlook our own glaring faults.
The humble person is in the world but not part of it; he has detachment from worldly things and recognizes that the lasting pearl is the kingdom of God. Our Lord spoke on this to St. Faustina and said, "Today, penetrate into the spirit of My poverty and arrange everything in such a way that the most destitute will have no reason to envy you. I find pleasure, not in large buildings and magnificent structures, but in a pure and humble heart" (Diary, 532). "God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble" (Jas 4:6).
We are called to do all things with a humble and contrite heart. Saint John the Baptist said, "He must increase, but I must decrease" (Jn 3:30). As we become more aware of our failings and shortcomings, we need only pray, "Lord I am not worthy to have you come under my roof; but only speak the word, and my servant will be healed" (Mt 8:8).
Dr. Bryan Thatcher is the founder of Eucharistic Apostles of The Divine Mercy (EADM), an apostolate of the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception.