Humility isn’t something to aspire after or work toward. It’s discovered over time, unbeknownst to the one becoming all the more humble…and only as one is willing to lovingly submit to God and unswervingly hold fast to a life of obedience. It begins with a desire for God over self. It concludes with a life in union with God, a purified love for others, and a forgetfulness of self. It’s hard to be humble.
St. Benedict (AD 480-547) added a chapter within his Rule of Life as a guide to humility. Although set forth as a blueprint for the life of the monks within his monasteries, its filled with wisdom for today’s Christian. He called these the “Steps to Humility” and the steps are rungs of a ladder. The ascent of Benedict’s ladder is toward humility, whereas others like Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153) write about the downward descent of humility (in contrast to the upward road of pride). Regardless, the steps toward humility take a lifetime to achieve, and require daily choices to be prayerful, loving, content, and gracious.
The first degree of humility is that one always have the fear of God before one’s eyes, shunning all forgetfulness, and remain mindful of all that God has commanded. In this degree one makes a serious effort to live a good life: careful about thoughts, avoiding self will, not pursuing lusts, and participating fully in the ongoing process toward full conversion and Christlikeness.
The second degree of humility is carrying out the Word of the Lord, not loving one’s own will or seeking to fulfill one’s own desires. In this degree of humility there is a renunciation of self will and desire, and an earnest seeking of God’s will and desire.
The third degree of humility is discovered as one subjects her/himself to a Superior in all obedience, imitating the Lord. It’s here that one submits to a Superior who is her/himself seeking to live in imitation of Christ. Submission and obedience are tied together, lived out in an atmosphere of love and trust.
The fourth degree of humility is accepting with patience and even-temperment all hard and distasteful things as one is commanded to fulfill, even injuries that are inflicted by self or others. To patiently endure all difficulties of life with equal acceptance is what it means to lean into this degree of humility.
We will pick up next time on the subsequent four of the twelve degrees of humility. In the meantime, ponder the first four and ask the Lord to enlighten your heart in areas where you sense resistance and/or dissonance. Invite the Holy Spirit to purge what’s most needed in your heart so that you are open to consider the invitation of Christ toward greater and more sincere humility of heart. To ponder, pray, and then to pursue humility is indeed the way of the Christ follower…yesterday, today and forever.