Virtue – Humility
Humility enables us to see ourselves as we really are in God’s eyes, neither exaggerating our good qualities nor denying the gifts we have received from God.
1. Understand Humility
What is Humility?
Humility is related to temperance. We naturally desire to be great, to be known and loved as good and successful. This virtue curbs our selfish desires and helps us point all glory back to God.
The truth is, the more we learn about God’s perfection, the more we recognize that we are nothing in comparison. Since God is infinite, even our greatest accomplishments are like nothing.
In addition, the more we are aware that we depend on God for our very existence — everything we do and are — the clearer it becomes that humility is the only proper attitude to have when dealing with God, who is all-good, all-powerful and all-knowing, and keeps the universe in his loving care.
From the Catechism
CCC 2779 Before we make our own this first exclamation of the Lord’s Prayer, we must humbly cleanse our hearts of certain false images drawn “from this world.” Humility makes us recognize that “no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him,” that is, “to little children.”30 The purification of our hearts has to do with paternal or maternal images, stemming from our personal and cultural history, and influencing our relationship with God. God our Father transcends the categories of the created world. To impose our own ideas in this area “upon him” would be to fabricate idols to adore or pull down. To pray to the Father is to enter into his mystery as he is and as the Son has revealed him to us.
The expression God the Father had never been revealed to anyone. When Moses himself asked God who he was, he heard another name. the Father’s name has been revealed to us in the Son, for the name “Son” implies the new name “Father.”31
The Virtue Lived – St. Thérèse of Lisieux
Born in France in 1873, St. Thérèse grew up in a very religious family; four of her sisters also became nuns. With special permission from the Pope, Thérèse was permitted to become a Carmelite nun at the early age of 15. After a few short years of simple monastery life, she died from tuberculosis at the age of 24.
St. Thérèse dedicated her life to God, knowing that she wasn’t called for large works, but to serve Him with humility. Thérèse knew of her littleness and dedicated her life to the Lord, praying that He would work through her as she took on the daily tasks of life.
The only reason she is known by the world is because of her autobiography “The Story of a Soul.” In her writings, she shared many of her inner trials and tribulations, but also her humble way of abandoning herself into God’s care with great trust. After she died, a book was published and she became well-known and loved.
She had a special devotion to the child Jesus, and is known for her “little way of spiritual childhood”; a devotion to doing seemingly ordinary things with extraordinary love. She knew that by remaining humble in her journey, offering the joys and struggles of life to God, and trusting Him completely, she would inherit eternal life.
“Nothing is small in the eyes of God. Do all that you do with love.”
2. Virtue In My Life
Questions geared towards self knowledge and personal growth
- When people praise me for physical traits or achievements, do I in turn give praise to God who created me and keeps me alive? Do I sometimes use my good looks or qualities to gain power or superiority over others?
- Do I ever judge people’s intentions, or do I give them the benefit of the doubt and pray for their shortcomings? Am I capable of forgiving others?
- When I see someone who is weak or struggling, is my tendency to laugh at them and make fun of them? Or do I have compassion and try to offer assistance?
- Am I ever selfish in conversations by talking only about my interests? Do I talk over people who are less outgoing than I am?
- In those times when I realize that I have made a mistake, am I quick to admit it and ask for pardon or to rely on others for help? Or do I try to hide my failings?
- Do I humbly accept that I am better than others in some things? Do I recognize God’s gifts in these areas of my life and regularly give Him the glory?
- Am I sometimes genuinely interested in learning from others? Am I open and attentive? How can I imitate these humble attitudes when it comes to people I am less interested in?
- When I am genuinely happy that someone else wins, how does that make me feel? Do I only feel this for close friends or family? What can I learn about myself in these situations?
- Do I regularly think about the fact that God created me from nothing, and that all good things come from His love?
- When I have acted out of pride, by trying to raise myself above others or by putting someone else down, have I recognized my selfishness and asked God for a humble heart? Have I asked others for forgiveness when necessary?
- Do I see the sacrament of confession as a wonderful opportunity to grow in humility and to thank God for his mercy and love?
3. Growing In Virtue
A Prayer for Virtue
Jesus, help me to see myself as You do. Give me gratitude for the things that are good in me, because they are Your gifts and come from Your generosity. Grant me a humble heart that makes me a gift to others. Amen.
St. Thérèse of Lisieux // Pray for us
Practical Tips for Living This Virtue
- Humility is not about pretending that we can’t do anything, or that we are not worthy, rather, it’s about giving glory where it is due. The easiest way to grow in humility is to learn to give God glory for His love that is shared with us in so many ways.
- Another easy way to live humbly is to use every opportunity to thank God for His unending gifts — in both pleasure and pain — we can recognize how God is working and raise our minds and hearts to Him in praise.
- A concrete way to practice humility is to show genuine interest in others during conversations, by avoiding talking about ourselves, and by asking questions.
- Another easy way to grow in this virtue is to search for things to praise in others and to make sincere compliments for the good that God has been able to do in them.
4. Other Resources
1450 “Penance requires . . . the sinner to endure all things willingly, be contrite of heart, confess with the lips, and practice complete humility and fruitful satisfaction.”49
2554 The baptized person combats envy through good-will, humility, and abandonment to the providence of God.
2559 “Prayer is the raising of one’s mind and heart to God or the requesting of good things from God.”2
But when we pray, do we speak from the height of our pride and will, or “out of the depths” of a humble and contrite heart?3
He who humbles himself will be exalted;4 humility is the foundation of prayer,
Only when we humbly acknowledge that “we do not know how to pray as we ought,”5 are we ready to receive freely the gift of prayer.
“Man is a beggar before God.”6
2546 “Blessed are the poor in spirit.”337 The Beatitudes reveal an order of happiness and grace, of beauty and peace. Jesus celebrates the joy of the poor, to whom the Kingdom already belongs:338
The Word speaks of voluntary humility as “poverty in spirit”; the Apostle gives an example of God’s poverty when he says: “For your sakes he became poor.”339
2540 Envy represents a form of sadness and therefore a refusal of charity; the baptized person should struggle against it by exercising good will. Envy often comes from pride; the baptized person should train himself to live in humility:
Would you like to see God glorified by you? Then rejoice in your brother’s progress and you will immediately give glory to God. Because his servant could conquer envy by rejoicing in the merits of others, God will be praised.328
2219 Filial respect promotes harmony in all of family life; it also concerns relationships between brothers and sisters. Respect toward parents fills the home with light and warmth. “Grandchildren are the crown of the aged.”26 “With all humility and meekness, with patience, [support] one another in charity.”27
Quotes From Saints
Trying to do good to people without God’s help is no easier than making the sun shine at midnight. You discover that you’ve got to abandon all your own preferences, your own bright ideas, and guide souls along the road our Lord has marked out for them. You mustn’t coerce them into some path of your own choosing. – Thérèse of Lisieux
Let each one remember that he will make progress in all spiritual things only insofar as he rids himself of self-love, self-will, and self-interest. – Ignatius Loyola
It constantly happens that the Lord permits a soul to fall so that it may grow humbler. When it is honest, and realizes what it has done, and returns, it makes ever-increasing progress in our Lord’s service. – Teresa of Avila
I saw all the devil’s traps set upon the earth, and I groaned and said, “Who do you think can pass through them?” And I heard a voice saying, “Humility.” – Antony the Great
If you should ask me what are the ways of God, I would tell you that the first is humility, the second is humility, and the third is still humility. Not that there are no other precepts to give, but if humility does not precede all that we do, our efforts are fruitless. – Augustine of Hippo
Blessed is the one who takes no more pride in the good that God says and does through him than in that which He says and does through someone else. – Francis of Assisi
Humility is to the various virtues what the chain is in a rosary. Take away the chain and the beads are scattered; remove humility, and all virtues vanish. – John Vianney
The gate of heaven is very low; only the humble can enter it. – Elizabeth Ann Seton
The great majority of men use their own short-sighted ideas as a yardstick for measuring the divine omnipotence. – Thérèse of Lisieux
The Story of a Soul – St. Thérèse of Lisieux
2 St. John Damascene, Defide orth. 3, 24: PG 94,1089C.
3 Ps 130:1.
4 Cf. Lk 18:9-14.
5 Rom 8:26.
6 St. Augustine, Sermo 56, 6, 9: PL 38, 381.
26 Prov 17:6.
27 Eph 4:2.
30 Mt 11:25-27.
31 Tertullian De orat. 3: PL 1, 1155.
49 Roman Catechism II, V, 21; cf. Council of Trent (1551): DS 1673.
328 St. John Chrysostom, Hom. in Rom. 71, 5: PG 60, 448.
337 Mt 5:3[ETML:C/].
338 Cf. Lk 6:20.
339 St. Gregory of Nyssa, De beatitudinibus 1: PG 44, 1200D; cf. 2 Cor 8:9.