Humility: Grounded in Divine Soil
I, the LORD, have spoken. The people I treasure most are the humble – they depend only on Me and tremble when I speak. [Isaiah 66:2 (CEV)].
What do we look for when we look in the mirror? Cosmetic beauty? Signs of aging? Appeal to others?
If we are looking in the mirror for some sort of satisfaction, approval or acceptance, we may be looking in the wrong place, and may never find what we are truly looking for.
Then turn to the life of Christ, and as you read, ask yourselves how far you are conformed to his likeness. Endeavour to discover whether you have the meekness, the humility, the lovely spirit which he constantly inculcated and displayed. [Charles Spurgeon, Morning and Evening: Daily Readings].
The symbol of Jesus washing the feet of his disciple is one of the most powerful image of humility on which we can meditate. It offers an inspiring example for us to follow, and also a comforting reminder of our interdependence and mutual welfare.
He that is greatest among you must be a servant. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted. [Matthew 23:11-12 (NLT)].
The word “humility” is derived from the Latin humus, referring to something lowly and “from the earth.” The word refers to a virtue that grounds us in awareness of our common human origin and condition. It includes such traits and emotions as modesty, naturalness, sincerity, self-abasement and simplicity.
… so if you were to ask me, however often you might repeat the question, what are the instructions of the Christian religion, I would be disposed to answer always and only,Humility,although, perchance, necessity might constrain me to speak also of other things. [Saint Augustine, Letter 118:4].
Humility has many predators: pride, vanity, arrogance, disdain, conceit, pomposity, pretentiousness, snobbishness, haughtiness and superciliousness, to name a few.
When we attain even a modicum of success, our humility becomes an easy prey to these pernicious parasites of the spirit. They infiltrate the inner fibers our character, infesting the very foundation of our soul. They destroy us from the inside out, leaving behind nothing but fecal mounds of consumed integrity as signs infestation.
Pride leads to every other vice: it is the complete anti-God state of mind … As long as you are proud you cannot know God. A proud man is always looking down on things and people; and, of course, as long as you are looking down, you cannot see something that is above you. [C. S. Lewis].
The humble consider their personal shortcomings in light of the Divine Presence. They submit themselves to God, viewing their defects as raw material for their growth. They find strength from the pleasure of God, not of humans.
And the servants of (God) Most Gracious are those who walk on the earth in humility, and when the ignorant address them, they say, “Peace!” [Quran 25:63].
True humility requires self-awareness and constant remembrance of the Divine Reality. We must recognize the infinite and eternal reality of which we are a part, and accept our finite place in the earthly community we inhabit.
Humility has to do with submitted willingness. It involves a healthy self-forgetfulness … humility involves a Copernican revolution of the soul, the realization that the universe does not revolve around us. [John Ortberg, The Life You’ve Always Wanted: Spiritual Disciplines for Ordinary People].
Humility perfects our appreciation of the sacred and of each other. When we recognize and acknowledge our dependence on the Divine and our human interdependence, we begin to understand our true condition. Without this understanding, we cannot perceive the essence of our existence.
True humility means that people must know the full extent of their worth before God’s infinite Grandeur, and then make this fully realized potential an ingrained, essential part of their nature. Those who have done this are humble and balanced in their relations with others. Those who have realized their nothingness before God Almighty are balanced in both their religious lives and their relations with people. [Fethullah Gülen].
Quest for Uniqueness
We tend to seek uniqueness, separating ourselves from each other and from the unity of creation. We desire to distinguish ourselves from our peers, and claim praise for whatever good fortune touches us. We celebrate anything that offers us recognition and approval.
Pride gets no pleasure out of having something, only out of having more of it than the next man. We say that people are proud of being rich, or clever, or good-looking, but they are not. They are proud of being richer, cleverer, or better-looking than others. If everyone else became equally rich, or clever, or good-looking there would be nothing to be proud about. It is the comparison that makes you proud: the pleasure of being above the rest. [C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, p, 122].
The sculpted body and the accomplished intellect are often breeding grounds for pride, for arrogance and for self-love. They contaminate our thought process and pollute our intentions. Humility is the only antidote, and the most essential enhancement for our spiritual immunity.
Therefore the sage acts, but does not rely on his own ability. He accomplishes his task, but does not claim credit for it. He has no desire to display his excellence. [Tao Te Ching 77.4].
So much of our existence feeds on self-esteem and confidence. Our livelihood, our social status, even our very survival, at times, depends on emotions and actions centered on our personality and identity. That is why it is so difficult to stay grounded in humility and to remember God when engrossed in our personal desires.
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. [Philippians 2:3].
Fruits of Humility
From humility, we develop modesty, reverence for the sacred and respect for wisdom. We give credit where it is due and refrain from self-glorification. With humility, we undertake difficult, tedious and mundane tasks and accept necessary sacrifices.
When we look at the holy people of God that is humble, that has its riches in its faith in the Lord, in its trust in the Lord – the humble, poor people that trust in the Lord: these are the ones who are saved. [Pope Francis].
Our dependence on Divine mercy and benevolence generates humility that provides relief and comfort in times of affliction and distress. When we forget this, and we often do, we cannot successfully cope with the ultimate reality of our existence.
Lord of all worlds, we cannot plead the merit of our deeds before Thee. What are we? What is our virtue, what is our righteousness, our power, our strength? Truly, our mighty men are as naught before Thee, and the men of fame as though they had never been: the learned appear void of knowledge, and the wise like men without understanding. [Talmud].
Our spiritual development depends on our submission to the Divine Will. Pride, conceit, and boastful self-importance obstruct bowing and deter obedience. Humility enhances both.
IS IT NOT time that the hearts of all who have attained to faith should feel humble at the remembrance of God and of all the truth that has been bestowed [on them] from on high, lest they become like those who were granted revelation aforetime, and whose hearts have hardened with the passing of time so that many of them are [now] depraved? [Quran 57:16].