What is humility?
Because of the nature of our group, we got right to the particulars: defining the word humility. So we looked first at the root and origin to come up with a working definition: from the word "humus" meaning earth, we said that humility is--in a sense--being grounded in reality. Humility is about recognizing who you are: both your lowly origin and faults and your divine source and the gifts that flow forth from your Creator. Humility is also about recognizing who others are, and who we all are in relation to God. We are from the earth--from dust to dust--and yet from God's hands.
What does humility look like?
It was then important for us to differentiate humility from humiliation... and even from self-deprecation. Because we as humans tend to put so much stock in the work we do, often giving it over-importance, we came to realize through our discussion that humility is in great part about finding worth not in what you do, but in who you ARE in Christ. It's about truly being humbled by our own limitations but realizing that despite these difficulties, we are still inherently worth something in God's eyes.
As an aside, the regional directors of Teach for
How do we gain humility?
In talking about humility, we realized there is not a lot we can do to grow in humility. We realized that it's truly a God-given grace. Despite being able to impose little humiliations (mortifications) upon ourselves, there's nothing quite like God smacking it to us.
Being the ever-curious individual I am, I had to look up what the Church has to say about humility. So naturally I ventured to www.newadvent.org. Here are the best snippets I found from the site, and it makes far more sense for me to post them in their original form than to attempt to rephrase and explain them when already they are so clear and concise!
Humility as a gift of the Spirit
Humility in a higher and ethical sense is that by which a man has a modest estimate of his own worth, and submits himself to others. According to this meaning no man can humiliate another, but only himself, and this he can do properly only when aided by Divine grace. We are treating here of humility in this sense, that is, of the virtue of humility.
Humility as virtue
It [humility] removes pride and makes a man subject to and a fit recipient of grace according to the words of St. James: "God resisteth the proud, and giveth his grace to the humble" (James 4:6). Faith is the first and the positive fundamental virtue of all the infused virtues, because it is by it we can take the first step in the supernatural life and in our access to God: "For he that cometh to God, must believe that he is, and is a rewarder to them that seek him" (Hebrews 11:6).
Humility seen in the example of Christ and His Saints
From the example of Christ and His Saints we may learn the practice of humility, which St. Thomas explains (Contra Gent., bk, III, 135): "The spontaneous embracing of humiliations is a practice of humility not in any and every case but when it is done for a needful purpose: for humility being a virtue, does nothing indiscreetly. It is then not humility but folly to embrace any and every humiliation: but when virtue calls for a thing to be done it belongs to humility not to shrink from doing it [Emphasis added].
on Christ’s Humility St. Thomas
“Though the virtue of humility cannot attach to Christ in His divine nature; it may attach to Him in His human nature and His divinity renders His humility all the more praiseworthy, for the dignity of the person adds to the merit of humility; and there can be no greater dignity to a man than his being God. Hence the highest praise attaches to the humility of the Man God, who to wean men's hearts from worldly glory to the love of divine glory, chose to embrace a death of no ordinary sort, but a death of the deepest ignominy" (Summa Contra Gent., tr. Rickaby, bk. IV. ch. lv; cf. bk. III, ch. cxxxvi).
And what would the Church be like if we were all more perfectly humble?
So it seems in all of this that humility is 1) a God-given virtue 2) which helps us to receive all of the graces God wishes to shower upon us, 3) and even helps us to be courageous in answering the call of virtue to righteousness. So much for equating humility with “meek” in the “submissive” and “mild” sense! Finally, 4) the most perfect example we have of humility is in the life of Christ--fully God yet fully man--who came down from Heaven as a lowly infant to take on human flesh and indeed to take on all the sins of man, dying a most wretched death. How greatly He humbled Himself for our sakes!
Christ as the perfect example of humility
As Paul tells the Philippians in chapter 2:1-11:
1 So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any incentive of love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, 2 complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 3 Do nothing from selfishness or conceit, but in humility count others better than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which was in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name which is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
God became man? Whoa. And we as Catholics believe that He not only humbled Himself to come in the infant flesh at Bethlehem, not only to die a wretched death upon the cross, but that He continues to humble himself each and every day to come in the Eucharist and be our very food! The depths our Lord will go to reach us in our lowly estate!
Mary as the perfect example of humility
As if the Lord had not blessed us enough He gives us His holy mother as a shining example of what it means to live a life of perfect Christian humility. You may say, “but we already have a perfect example in Christ!” And indeed, He is the prime example. But Mary’s life and love serve as a witness to the very life and love of Christ and show us that perfect Christian humility is attainable! She helps us to see that any normal human can attain sanctity if we open ourselves to the will of the Lord and let His light pierce our darkness.
If we look at the fiat of Mary, we see that it serves as the perfect pattern of humility. "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. Be it done unto me according to thy word."
Not, "Behold, I could be the handmaid of the Lord" or "I guess I'm the handmaid of the Lord," but I AM the handmaid of the Lord. She rightly recognizes that she is His and His alone, and that it is good and right that she is His servant. In saying "Be it done unto me" she acknowledges also that the work that He would do in and through her is not something she could do herself. It is not something she can do alone. She must instead open her whole heart to His perfect will so that His Word may take effect in her life.
So what would perfect humility mean for the Church? What would it mean if we all more perfectly imitated the example of Christ and the example of His Blessed Mother? For one thing, we’d see a Church in which we are all more open to receiving God’s graces and more open to doing His will. We’d see a Church full of redeemed sinners who are living in right relation with God. We’d see a Church that is more courageous when it comes to doing what righteousness calls us to do. And we’d see a much healthier, holier, more unified Bride of Christ. If we as the Church lived in perfect humility, we would be the perfect Bride for the perfect Bridegroom.
Prayer and song of thanksgiving
A ministry I was involved in during college spent an entire semester focusing on humility and introduced me to the beautiful prayer below, which I was able to share with my friends at community group on Wednesday. Take a moment and pray it yourself! Then check out this website with more interesting things to say about humility.
Litany of humility