The Dreaded Virtue of Humility

Prudence, justice, fortitude . . . Who doesn’t want to attain those virtues? Temperance, the fourth of the cardinal virtues, may be less appealing, but still garners respect.

Then there’s the virtue of humility, the tempering virtue of pride.

Humility Quote C.S. Lewis

Does anyone really want to be humble?

Is there any prayer more difficult, more uncomfortable to pray than the Litany of Humility? If there is, I have yet to discover it. (And I’d thank you for not passing on any contenders to the title.) I feel like a big, fat, liar every time I read – and try to pray – the words.

Do I really want humility?

Do I even want to want humility?

In case you’re not familiar with the prayer, take a gander below and see if it doesn’t make you wince.

O Jesus! meek and humble of heart, Hear me.
From the desire of being esteemed,

Deliver me, Jesus.

From the desire of being loved…
From the desire of being extolled …
From the desire of being honored …
From the desire of being praised …
From the desire of being preferred to others…
From the desire of being consulted …
From the desire of being approved …
From the fear of being humiliated …
From the fear of being despised…
From the fear of suffering rebukes …
From the fear of being calumniated …
From the fear of being forgotten …
From the fear of being ridiculed …
From the fear of being wronged …
From the fear of being suspected …

That others may be loved more than I,
Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.

That others may be esteemed more than I …
That, in the opinion of the world,
others may increase and I may decrease …
That others may be chosen and I set aside …
That others may be praised and I unnoticed …
That others may be preferred to me in everything…
That others may become holier than I,
 provided that I may become as holy as I should…

Am I right?

So, what exactly is humility?

The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines humility thusly:

HUMILITY: The virtue by which a Christian acknowledges that God is the author of all good. Humility avoids inordinate ambition or pride, and provides the foundation for turning to God in prayer (2559). Voluntary humility can be described as “poverty of spirit” (2546).

(Think of Matthew 5:3 – Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.)

I confess to having a long-standing case of what I’ll call “sidekick syndrome.” I’ve always felt as if I were second fiddle – to a friend, to my husband, even to the cutie patootie baby tossed over my shoulder. Even now, I sometimes feel as if I’m merely an appendage to my children.

It’s easy to associate pride with a loudmouthed braggart or a puffed-up snob, but what about we quiet, docile types? Maybe our struggle with pride is less obvious, but not necessarily less insidious.

Here’s another take on humility. “It means not regarding ourselves as more important than other people, including those who have achieved less than we have. And it implies judging ourselves not in comparison to others, but in light of our capabilities and the tasks we believe God has set for us on earth.”

Did you catch that? Not in comparison to others.

Comparison is the root of so many of our fumbles, faults, and foibles. Don’t think it’s a universal problem? I searched Google for images using the keywords “don’t compare yourself to others.”

Oh, the memes. The dozens and dozens of memes.

Pride isn’t a vice easily nor quickly conquered. You can stuff yourself full of humble pie and still it rears its ugly head. (Not this Humble Pie, but this one.)

I don’t have a quick fix or solution. I expect I’ll struggle with this one until they lay me in the grave. But I’ll keep praying that prayer. And maybe one day I’ll come close to meaning it.

Do you struggle with humility? Have your tried praying the Litany of Humility?


 

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7 thoughts on “The Dreaded Virtue of Humility

  1. Definitely working on this one! My post last week touched on the comparison concept… especially when it comes to relationships with other women. It’s tough to avoid even with humble intentions.

    • Despite the number of humiliations I endure (think rushing out of store with a screaming, thrashing child under my arm), I don’t seem outgrow the need for lessons in humility.

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