Humility: As a Norm


As was the case with obedience, humility can also be regularly misunderstood. Humility is not becoming a door mat and allowing others to walk over you. Humility is not being weak or spineless. Humility does not mean that you have a negative view of yourself or that you have self-esteem issues. Actually, quite the opposite.


Humility is accepting your good qualities as well as your limitation, thus recognizing that others also have good qualities and are equally valuable. Humility, therefore, means that another needs to be made small for us to be big, more powerful, more influential. Humility negates the need to be right, the need to win a debate, the desire to have the last word. Humility minimizes the need for approval thus offering liberation and freedom.
In short, “Humility allows you to recognize and acknowledge all the positive qualities of body, mind, and spirit in another person,” (p. 112, Entering the Castle, Caroline Myss). It is from this perspective that St. Benedict introduces humility into the Benedictine Order. Humility is the basis for Benedictine spirituality. The humility that Benedict teaches is the state of mind that subordinates our wills to God’s in the realization that we are not the center of the universe. At its very foundation, humility is placing God first. Humility, therefore, is linked to obedience because we cannot listen or respond to God or one another if we believe that we are the center of life. We cannot listen or respond if we believe at any level that our way is the only way.


Twelve Steps of Humility


In chapter 7 of the Rule Benedict describes the task of achieving humility in terms of climbing a ladder that has twelve rungs and he supports each rung with Scripture. They are as follows:

  1. To accept that God is present in our lives and to live from this awareness. (Ps. 35[36]:2).
  2. To make doing God’s will our prime directive (John 6:38).
  3. To recognize that we cannot always be in control, and to listen and respond to those who are – to be obedient ((Phil 2:8).
  4. To be patient and steadfast when our obedience places us in a difficult or unfair situation (Matt. 10:22).
  5. To practice self-disclosure with someone trustworthy (Ps. 6[37]:5).
  6. To be willing to do the most menial tasks and be at peace with them (Ps. 72[73}:22-23)
  7. To genuinely believe in our hearts that others are better than we are at certain things ((Ps 118[119]:71, 73).
  8. To take no action except those endorsed by people who show wisdom and understanding
  9. T listen more than to talk (Prov 10:19).
  10. To not laugh excessively (Sir. 21:23).
  11. To speak quietly and briefly with humility and restraint
  12. To know ourselves and our sinfulness and therefore to be humble inwardly and outwardly ((Luke 18:13).

Practicing Humility


(*Entering the Castle, Myss)
To practice humility requires total honesty with yourself. To lie is to fall into the trap of the Deceiver.
• True humility begins with a change of heart and spiritual maturity. The path of humility requires frequent self-reflection by asking, “Whose approval is important to me? And why? *
• Create a list of the characteristics of being humble and refer to the list at the end of the day, reflecting on the characteristics that are the most challenging. *
• Spend time thinking of tasks that you feel are beneath you and then go out and do them. *
• Make it a habit to ask for guidance on a regular basis.
• If you are a person who must have the last word or the last text, break that habit.
Your invited to journal for your own edification and/or add comments to the blog feed of what worked or did not work for you when dealing with obedience. Next Wednesday we will explore the topic of hospitality.


May you experience a holy Lent that offers you a place of solace and holiness.

Author: interioraltar

Episcopal Priest and Rector in the Diocese of East Carolina.

4 thoughts on “Humility: As a Norm”

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