Ladder of Humility – Part 1

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.


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Steve Macchia

Founder & President

The Rev. Dr. Stephen A. Macchia is founder and president of Leadership Transformations, Inc. (LTI), a ministry serving the spiritual formation, discernment, and renewal of leaders and learners since 2003. For more than 20 years he has been the Director of the Pierce Center for Disciple-Building at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, where he also serves as an adjunct faculty member in the Doctor of Ministry Program. From 1989-2003 he was the president of Vision New England, the largest regional church renewal association in the country. Earlier in his ministry life, Steve was a member of the pastoral staff of Grace Chapel in Lexington, Massachusetts for 11 years. He is the author or co-author of 17 books, including The Discerning Life (Zondervan Reflective), and Crafting a Rule of Life, Becoming A Healthy Church (LTI), and Broken and Whole (IVP).  He and his wife Ruth live in the Boston (MA) area and are the proud parents of two married children and grandparents to three adorable grandchildren. Steve’s personal website is

My soul comes alive singing the great hymns of the church and enjoying the beauty of God’s creation. I’m in awe of God for fulfilling the dream for LTI that he birthed in my heart, for the team he has assembled, and the transformational impact experienced in the leaders and teams we serve.

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Mitzi Mak

Selah-West Faculty

Mitzi started her professional life as a high school social studies teacher. She and her husband Jerry then served cross-culturally for ten+ years, living abroad first in India and then Kurdistan, N. Iraq. In addition to being a Spiritual Director, she now serves as a Formation and Care pastor in her local church in Houston, TX. She has graduated from LTI’s Selah Spiritual Direction training as well as LTI’s Emmaus Formational Leadership Program.

Mitzi enjoys engaging conversation, reading fiction, doing jigsaw/crossword puzzles, ocean gazing and exploring the world with Jerry through food and travel.

God has two main callings in Mitzi’s life: to care for those who care for others and to be a guide in helping others have a healthy relationship with the Trinity – recognizing God’s loving presence and activity in their lives and how to faithfully respond.

Selah was a transformative experience for me – allowing the contemplative within to emerge and to beautifully co-exist with my extraverted personality.