Cultivating Humility Towards Others

Humility is regarded among the saints as the Queen of Virtues, who is essential for salvation and leads us to all other virtues. Humility of Heart beautifully introduces this virtue to readers and offers consoling instruction on living with humility. This excerpt focuses on cultivating humility towards our superiors, equals, and inferiors.

Humility Towards Others

Now, as your neighbor can be either your superior, your equal, or your inferior, it is certain that you must practice humility, first of all toward your superior, which is of precept, for as St. Peter says, such is the Will of God: “For so is the will of God.” (1 Peter 2:15).

Towards Superiors

Do you show to your superiors and betters that obedience and reverence which your state exacts? How do you receive their reprimands? Do you feel that humility of heart toward them “with a good will serving” (Eph. 6:7) which St. Paul enjoins? There is a humility necessary for the imitation of Christ, “Who humbled Himself, becoming obedient unto death.” (Phil. 2:8). There may sometimes be an excuse of impotence or inadvertence in not obeying those whom God has set over you, but to refuse to obey is always an act of inexcusable pride. As St. Bernard says: “To be unwilling to obey is the proud effort of the will.”

Towards Equals

How do you behave toward your equals? Do you wish to be above them, to be preferred before them, not contented with your own state? Every time that you feel this desire in your heart, say to yourself that this was the sin of Lucifer, who said in his heart: “I will ascend.” (Is. 14:14). And St. Thomas teaches that the virtue of humility consists essentially in moderating this desire to exalt ourselves above others.

Do you esteem yourself above others for any gift of nature, education or grace? That is true pride, and you must subdue this by humility, holding yourself inferior to others, as in fact you may be before God.

Towards Inferiors

How do you behave toward your inferiors? It is toward these that you must exercise humility most of all. “The greater thou art,” says the Inspired Word, “the more humble thyself in all things.” (Ecclus. 3:20). And though they are inferior regarding their condition in life, remember always that before God they are your equals. “Knowing that the Lord both of them and you is in heaven, and there is no respect of persons with Him.” (Eph. 6:9).

In this way you will become kind and considerate, as St. Paul advises when he says: “Consenting to the humble.” (Rom. 12:16). Do you command them haughtily and imperiously, against the express wish of God, who does not desire you to behave toward your inferiors “as lording it?” (1 Peter 5:3). And when you are obliged to correct them, do you do it in the proper spirit: “In the spirit of meekness,” as the Apostle teaches us, “considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted?” (Gal. 6:1).

False Humility

There is also another kind of humility which is false, and against which we are warned by the Holy Ghost when He says: “Be not lowly in thy wisdom, lest being humbled, thou be deceived into folly.” (Ecclus. 13:11). If you possess the talent of teaching, counseling, helping and doing good to the souls of others, and you then retire, saying as if from humility, “I am not good enough;” or if you are in a position when it is your duty to correct, punish or exercise authority, and you abandon it from motives of humility, this is not true humility, but weakness and cowardice. And as far as externals are concerned, we must observe the rule of the holy father St. Augustine: “Lest whilst humility is unduly observed, the authority of the ruler be undermined among those who ought to be submissive.”

True Humility

The truly humble man believes that everyone is better than himself, and that he is the worst of all. But are you really humble like this in your own opinion? You easily compare yourself with this one and that one, but to how many do you not prefer yourself with the pride of the Pharisee: “I am not as the rest of men.” (Luke 18:11). 

When you prefer yourself to others, it often seems as if you speak with a certain humility and modesty, saying, “By the grace of God, I have not the vices of such a one: By the grace of God I have not committed so many grievous sins as such a one.” But is it really true that you recognize that you owe all this to the grace of God and that you give Him the glory rather than to yourself? 

If you esteem yourself more highly than such a one, and if he in his turn esteems himself inferior to you, he is therefore humbler than you, and for that reason better. If by the grace of God you are chaste, charitable and just, you must endeavor by that same grace to be humble as well. And how can you be humble if you have such an abundance of self-esteem, preferring yourself to others?

This article is taken from a chapter in Humility of Heart by Fr. Cajetan Mary da Bergamo which is available from TAN Books



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