Humility is a beautiful quality to find in a person. But it’s rare today.
Consider this definition of humility: “Those who are humble experience no shame. They do not need lies and evasions to inflate their importance in the eyes of their associates, or to buttress their self-esteem. They have overcome the tendency to regard others as competitors or rivals, and so they work with whatever they have, and waste no time envying those who possess different qualities. The humble are equally content both with the gifts and the limitations that come from their nature or their personal history. Humility brings with it a fundamental happiness that is able to cope with external difficulties and sorrows…Humility is that network of attitudes that springs from a radical conversion of heart, and signals a deep, inner conformity with Christ. Growth in humility is powered by the simple desire to become like Christ.” (Living In the Truth, by Michael Casey, pp. 1,2)
St. Benedict, in the center of his Rule of Life, gives guidance to his followers regarding the way toward humility via the rungs of a ladder. Over the next few weeks I want to look at his ladder of humility and see what we can learn from the 12 rungs that lead us upward toward humility. The journey upward on the ladder is counter intuitive to the descent of humility, the way in which Bernard of Clairvaux and others have treated the subject. But, suffice it to say, the road toward humility isn’t an easy one, nor is it self-guided. No, the road toward humility is one that’s willing to be trampled upon by others, for humus, the basis of humility, is nothing more grandiose than dirt.
The triad of humility, silence and obedience is what Benedict proposes, as does our Savior Jesus. Jesus is the supreme example of personhood uncomplicated and unhindered by sin. He is the model of this quality we’ve come to know as humility. He even said of Himself, “Learn of me, for I am meek and humble of heart” (Matt. 11:29). Consider as well Philippians 2: 5-8 and John 13: 1-17 for further reflection on Jesus the humble One.
Pray today for an openness toward humility in your head, hands, and heart. Spend time listening attentively to the gentle invitation to become like Jesus.