Humility, the Core of All Virtues

What’s humility? Am I humble? Why humility is important?  Many questions arise in our minds once we speak about humility.  Something inside us makes us desire this virtue; we look up to the Lord and His humility; we look up to the saints that humble themselves to role model themselves after the Lord.


Let’s first clarify; the scripture speaks of humility which comes upon us from God, or in other words, God bringing upon us life situations that would bring us to humility, with the intention of giving us the foundation to grow spiritually.  The scripture also speaks of humbling ourselves, by choice.  On the other hand we sometimes speak of man from a very humble position, and we recite “What is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you visit him?” (Ps 8:4).  In other times, we speak of man from a very high position, and we recite “But you are chosen generation, a royal priesthood, His own special people” (1Pet 2:9).  I met many people who are confused about this very same issue; both sides claim to be correct, both bring in their own biblical reference.  One side claims that we are made of dust, we are nothing, we are not worthy of anything.  The other side claims, we are royal priesthood, children of Most High.  I’ll attempt to reconcile these two points of views as I am defining humility.

First, humility is defined as the exact middle point of these two points of views.  Yes, we are made of dust; yes, we are not worthy of God’s love towards us; but also it’s out of God’s love that He made us in His image and His likeness as He formed us from the dust of the earth.  We were in a lowly state but He raised us to be His children, as the scripture says “while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom 5:8), “You were bought for a price” (1 Cor 6:20).  Humility, brothers and sisters, is the exact middle point of these two points of views.  The knowing where we came from and what God did for us is what keep us humble.  Both points of views are true and are valid; if we have this correct understanding, we will have the correct foundation for humility.  Humility is in the understanding and the feeling that God is great and powerful while we are small and weak.  Our humility is based on our faith and hope in the salvation which the Lord offered us.  Humility is in the knowing that God is so powerful and great, while we are so weak and small, it’s His love and mercy that He considered us His children.

God, in both the Old and the New Testament, demanded us to live humbly.  In the book of Micah “He has shown you, O man, what is good; And what does the LORD require of you But to do justly, To love mercy, And to walk humbly with your God? “ (Mic 6:8).  And the Lord Himself, in the New Testament, said “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Mat 11:29).  Washing His disciples’ feet, He said to them, “now that I am the teacher and washed your feet, blessed are you if you do the same to one another.” (John 13:15)

To bring our conversation to a daily practical level, brothers and sisters, let me present you with
few questions to bring to your attention areas where we struggle with humility.  Here is a set of questions to ask yourself: -Do I desire to be loved by others? -Do I desire to be honored and praised? -Do I desireto be preferred over others? -Do I desire to be consulted? -Do I fear being humiliated? -Do I fear being despised? -Do I fear being forgotten? -Do I fear being wronged and rebuked? -Am I opinionated? – Am I critical of others?  These simple questions will tell us a lot about our humility.  The writings of the desert fathers tell us about the importance of humility in our lives; one famous story about St. Macarius having a conversation with a devil, when the devil told him that it wasn’t his prayers, fasting or vigil that made him victorious over the devils but it was his humility. With their spiritual experience, the desert fathers gave us some guidelines to help us with our humility.  First, they encouraged us to take the last seats as the Lord Himself advised us in Luke 14:10; not to look for glory and praise from others but rather run away from it.  Second, to put our own desires away; to accept to live under someone else’s desires and wishes; to accept that we are not always right and to accept other opinions; to accept to be subject to others.  Third, they advised us to accept blame, to follow our master’s foot steps, “He was oppressed and afflicted, yet He didn’t open His mouth” (Is 53:7). Fourth, they encouraged us not to judge one another but rather look with eyes of mercy on everyone while focusing our attention to our own sins.  Brothers and Sisters, do not consider this a recipe to humility but a scratch of the surface to the most important virtue.

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