“Ask a Priest: How can a person grow in humility?”

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Q: How does one become humble? -P.

Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC

A: Your question touches on one of the key virtues. Becoming humble — practicing humility — is an antidote to the mother of all sins, pride.

Let’s define a few terms first. A virtue is an operative habit, “a quality, difficult to remove, that disposes the subject to function with facility, promptness and delight” (from Jordan Aumann’s Spiritual Theology).

Humility, as defined by the glossary of the Catechism, is: “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. Voluntary humility can be described as ‘poverty of spirit.'” More succinctly, St. Teresa of Avila says, “Humility is truth.”

Humility could also be described as seeing ourselves as God sees us. He knows all our faults and weaknesses, yet he looks on us with love and patience. Whatever good we have comes from him. (For further reading, see The Spiritual Life by Adolph Tanquerey, especially nos. 1140-1153, and Humility of Heart, by Father Cajetan Mary da Bergamo.)

To grow in humility, you might consider the following suggestions.

First, pray for the gift of humility each day. God as the source of all good will be there to help you grow in this virtue.

Second, cultivate a spirit of gratitude to God for everything you have. Third, learn to accept your daily crosses with a spirit of patience. Those crosses include humiliations, which can help us so much to grow in humility when we accept them through, with, and in Christ. Unite your daily sufferings with the cross of Christ. We can forget that Jesus wants us to be holy, and that all those difficulties and challenges of daily life might really be God’s way of giving us the chance to grow in humility by embracing those problems with love and endurance.

Fourth, try to act as though everyone else in your life is more important than you. Each person is infinitely loved by God and is thus worthy of our love too. By putting ourselves last, by reserving our critical eye for ourselves and our own faults, we can grow in humility.

Fifth, read and meditate on the Gospels and notice how Jesus practiced humility. Born in a cave, rejected by many of his own people, and ultimately nailed to a cross, Jesus gives us the supreme example of humility. Follow his example and you can grow in this precious virtue. Count on my prayers!

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