To know what our body is in reality, it will suffice for us to look into the grave, for, from what we see there, we must inevitably conclude that as it is with those decayed bodies, so it will soon be with us. And with this reflection I must say to myself: “Why is earth and ashes proud?.” “Behold the glory of man! for his glory is dung and worms; today he is lifted up, and tomorrow he shall not be found, because he is returned into his earth, and his thought is come to nothing.” Therefore, as I have nothing of my own but my own nothingness, it is sufficient for humility that I should be content with this nothingness.
But however much a man may exercise humility, he can never form any judgment as to his being really humble, for he who thinks himself humble is no longer so.
In the same way that to recognize that we are proud is the beginning of humility, so to flatter ourselves that we are humble is the beginning of pride, and the more humble we think ourselves the greater is our pride. That self-complacency which the heart feels, making us imagine that we are humble in consequence of some agreeable reflections we have had about ourselves, is a species of vanity; and how can vanity exist with humility which is founded solely on truth? Vanity is nothing but a lie, and it is precisely from a lie that pride springs.
Read the lives of the Saints, and consider whose life your own most resembles: what degree of sanctity do you possess? If you were to die at this moment, to what part of Paradise would you think yourself destined?
Pride is always ready to take offense; and with this disposition to resent slights and injuries how is it possible to live in charity (love)? When we find two persons who are prone to disagree, and to whom reconciliation is difficult, we cannot be far wrong in concluding that both are full of pride. Therefore it is obvious that charity cannot exist without humility.
It is difficult for those who possess riches or learning to be humble, because these two gifts are apt to cause vanity in those who possess them. It is far better therefore to be less rich and less learned and to be humble, than to possess great riches or great learning and to be proud.
If you are rich in possessions or in knowledge, be nevertheless poor of heart, that is to say, be humble. This is difficult, it is true; but to overcome the difficulty increases the merit of the virtue. There is no great merit in being humble when our condition is lowly, but there is great merit in being humble when we are surrounded by the incentives to pride, which are riches and learning. St. Bernard says: “It is no great thing for a man to be humble in abjection, but for one who is honored humility is altogether a great and rare virtue.”
It is easier to be humble in adversity than in prosperity.
To talk much proceeds from pride, because we are persuaded that we know a great deal and we wish to impress our thoughts and opinions on the minds of others.
Are you careful in speaking not to say anything in your own praise, or anything that might cause you to be praised by others, not to appear learned, wise or spiritual, ostentatiously displaying your personal advantages or those that belong to your family?
You must accustom yourself not to speak either ill or well of yourself, because it is easy for pride to inspire your words in either case.
Study to give humility the highest place, because all virtues are acquired and maintained by humility, and without humility they vanish away. St. Augustine
“Amongst all the falls of sinners none is so great as that of the proud.” St. Augustine
Because the other vices are to be feared only when we are disposed to evil; but pride, insinuates itself even when we are trying to do good. “Other vices are to be feared in sins, pride is to be feared even in good deeds.”
“Pride is worse than every other vice from the fact that it springs even from virtue and its guilt is less felt.” (Fr. Gaetano Maria Da Bergamo)
CHAPTER VII (2) (KEMPIS) (Superbiae)
Of fleeing from vain hope and pride
Vain is the life of that man who putteth his trust in men or in any created Thing. Be not ashamed to be the servant of others for the love of Jesus Christ, and to be reckoned poor in this life. Rest not upon thyself, but build thy hope in God. Do what lieth in thy power, and God will help thy good intent. Trust not in thy learning, nor in the cleverness of any that lives, but rather trust in the favour of God, who resisteth the proud and giveth grace to the humble.
2. Boast not thyself in thy riches if thou hast them, nor in thy friends if they be powerful, but in God, who giveth all things, and in addition to all things desireth to give even Himself. Be not lifted up because of thy strength or beauty of body, for with only a slight sickness it will fail and wither away. Be not vain of thy skilfulness or ability, lest thou displease God, from whom cometh every good gift which we have.
3. Count not thyself better than others, lest perchance thou appear worse in the sight of God, who knoweth what is in man. Be not proud of thy good works, for God’s judgments are of another sort than the judgments of man, and what pleaseth man is ofttimes displeasing to Him. If thou hast any good, believe that others have more, and so thou mayest preserve thy humility. It is no harm to thee if thou place thyself below all others; but it is great harm if thou place thyself above even one. Peace is ever with the humble man, but in the heart of the proud there is envy and continual wrath.
CHAPTER VII (3)
Of hiding our grace under the guard of humility
“My Son, it is better and safer for thee to hide the grace of devotion, and not to lift thyself up on high, nor to speak much thereof, nor to value it greatly; but rather to despise thyself, and to fear as though this grace were given to one unworthy thereof. Nor must thou depend too much upon this feeling, for it can very quickly be turned into its opposite. Think when thou art in a state of grace how miserable and poor thou art wont to be without grace. Nor is there advance in spiritual life in this alone, that thou hast the grace of consolation, but that thou humbly and unselfishly and patiently takest the withdrawal thereof; so that thou cease not from the exercise of prayer, nor suffer thy other common duties to be in anywise neglected; rather do thy task more readily, as though thou hadst gained more strength and knowledge; and do not altogether neglect thyself because of the dearth and anxiety of spirit which thou feelest.
2. “For there are many who, when things have not gone prosperous with them, become forthwith impatient or slothful. For the way of a man is not in himself,(1) but it is God’s to give and to console, when He will, and as much as He will, and whom He will, as it shall please Him, and no further. Some who were presumptuous because of the grace of devotion within them, have destroyed themselves, because they would do more than they were able, not considering the measure of their own littleness, but rather following the impulse of the heart than the judgment of the reason. And because they presumed beyond what was well-pleasing unto God, therefore they quickly lost grace. They became poor and were left vile, who had built for themselves their nest in heaven; so that being humbled and stricken with poverty, they might learn not to fly with their own wings, but to put their trust under My feathers. They who are as yet new and unskilled in the way of the Lord, unless they rule themselves after the counsel of the wise, may easily be deceived and led away.
3. “But if they wish to follow their own fancies rather than trust the experience of others, the result will be very dangerous to them if they still refuse to be drawn away from their own notion. Those who are wise in their own conceits, seldom patiently endure to be ruled by others. It is better to have a small portion of wisdom with humility, and a slender understanding, than great treasures of sciences with vain self-esteem. It is better for thee to have less than much of what may make thee proud. He doeth not very discreetly who giveth up himself entirely to joy, forgetting his former helplessness and the chaste fear of the Lord, which feareth to lose the grace offered. Nor is he very wise, after a manly sort, who in time of adversity, or any trouble whatsoever, beareth himself too despairingly, and feeleth concerning Me less trustfully than he ought.
4. “He who in time of peace willeth to be oversecure shall be often found in time of war overdispirited and full of fears. If thou knewest always how to continue humble and moderate in thyself, and to guide and rule thine own spirit well, thou wouldest not so quickly fall into danger and mischief. It is good counsel that when fervour of spirit is kindled, thou shouldest meditate how it will be with thee when the light is taken away. Which when it doth happen, remember that still the light may return again, which I have taken away for a time for a warning to thee, and also for mine own glory. Such a trial is often more useful than if thou hadst always things prosperous according to thine own will.
5. “For merits are not to be reckoned by this, that a man hath many visions or consolations, or that he is skilled in the Scriptures, or that he is placed in a high situation; but that he is grounded upon true humility and filled with divine charity, that he always purely and uprightly seeketh the honour of God, that he setteth not by himself, but unfeignedly despiseth himself, and even rejoiceth to be despised and humbled by others more than to be honoured.”
• Obadiah 1:3
The pride of thine heart hath deceived thee, thou that dwellest in the clefts of the rock, whose habitation is high; that saith in his heart, Who shall bring me down to the ground?
• Psalm 10:4
The wicked, through the pride of his countenance, will not seek after God: God is not in all his thoughts.
• Psalm 37:11
But the meek shall inherit the earth; and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace.
• Psalm 131:1
Lord, my heart is not haughty, nor mine eyes lofty: neither do I exercise myself in great matters, or in things too high for me.
• Psalm 138:6
Though the LORD be high, yet hath he respect unto the lowly: but the proud he knoweth afar off.
• Psalm 147:6
The LORD lifteth up the meek: he casteth the wicked down to the ground.
• Psalm 149:4
For the LORD taketh pleasure in his people: he will beautify the meek with salvation.
• Proverbs 3:34
Surely he scorneth the scorners: but he giveth grace unto the lowly.
• Proverbs 8:13
The fear of the LORD is to hate evil: pride, and arrogancy, and the evil way, and the froward mouth, do I hate.
• Proverbs 10:8
The wise in heart will receive commandments: but a prating fool shall fall.
• Proverbs 11:2
When pride cometh, then cometh shame: but with the lowly is wisdom.
• Proverbs 13:10
Only by pride cometh contention: but with the well advised is wisdom.
• Proverbs 15:31-33
The ear that heareth the reproof of life abideth among the wise. He that refuseth instruction despiseth his own soul: but he that heareth reproof getteth understanding. The fear of the LORD is the instruction of wisdom; and before honour is humility.
• Proverbs 16:5
Every one that is proud in heart is an abomination to the LORD: though hand join in hand, he shall not be unpunished.
• Proverbs 16:18-19
Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall. Better it is to be of an humble spirit with the lowly, than to divide the spoil with the proud.
• Proverbs 18:12
Before destruction the heart of man is haughty, and before honour is humility.
• Proverbs 21:4
An high look, and a proud heart, and the plowing of the wicked, is sin.
• Proverbs 22:4
By humility and the fear of the LORD are riches, and honour, and life.
• Proverbs 25:9
Debate thy cause with thy neighbour himself; and discover not a secret to another:
• Proverbs 28:25-26
He that is of a proud heart stirreth up strife: but he that putteth his trust in the LORD shall be made fat. He that trusteth in his own heart is a fool: but whoso walketh wisely, he shall be delivered.
• Proverbs 29:23
A man’s pride shall bring him low: but honour shall uphold the humble in spirit.
• Ecclesiastes 7:8
Better is the end of a thing than the beginning thereof: and the patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit.
• Isaiah 2:11-12
The lofty looks of man shall be humbled, and the haughtiness of men shall be bowed down, and the LORD alone shall be exalted in that day. For the day of the LORD of hosts shall be upon every one that is proud and lofty, and upon every one that is lifted up; and he shall be brought low:
• Isaiah 13:9-11
Behold, the day of the LORD cometh, cruel both with wrath and fierce anger, to lay the land desolate: and he shall destroy the sinners thereof out of it. For the stars of heaven and the constellations thereof shall not give their light: the sun shall be darkened in his going forth, and the moon shall not cause her light to shine. And I will punish the world for their evil, and the wicked for their iniquity; and I will cause the arrogancy of the proud to cease, and will lay low the haughtiness of the terrible.
• Isaiah 66:2
For all those things hath mine hand made, and all those things have been, saith the LORD: but to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word.
• Micah 6:8
He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?
• Matthew 18:3-4
And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
• Matthew 23:12
And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted.
• John 5:44
How can ye believe, which receive honour one of another, and seek not the honour that cometh from God only?
• Romans 12:3
For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.
• Romans 12:16
Be of the same mind one toward another. Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate. Be not wise in your own conceits.
• 1 Corinthians 1:28
And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are:
• 1 Corinthians 3:18
Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you seemeth to be wise in this world, let him become a fool, that he may be wise.
• 1 Corinthians 13:4
Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up,
• 2 Corinthians 10:17-18
But he that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord. For not he that commendeth himself is approved, but whom the Lord commendeth.
• Galatians 5:25-26
If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. Let us not be desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying one another.
• Galatians 6:14
But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.
• James 4:6
But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.