Motives of Humility
1. Humility is the most necessary and the most difficult of the virtues. It is the most necessary because it is the foundation of the entire Christian edifice of spiritual perfection. No stable structure can be built without a firm foundation.
This virtue is also necessary because God gives His grace only to the humble, and without His grace we can gain no supernatural merit. “God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble.” (James 4:6) Humility is, moreover, the most difficult of the virtues. It is hard to renounce one's possessions and give them away to the poor in accordance with the evangelical counsel. It is harder to renounce one's wayward instincts and passions. It is even harder, however, to renounce one's own ego with all its immoderate desires. Nevertheless, this is what Christian humility demands of us. We must deny ourselves and acknowledge our nothingness. We must recognise that it is folly to glory in things which do not belong to us, but are merely gifts from God.
It is necessary to practise the virtue of humility continually if we are to become humble. For this purpose it is useful to meditate on the motives which should inspire us to humble ourselves both before God and before men. Our sins constitute one of these motives. All that we are and all that we have in the physical and in the supernatural order are gifts from our Creator and Redeemer, but sin belongs to us alone.
It is we ourselves who are responsible for sin, because in direct opposition to His will we abused the faculties which God gave us. This is surely a reason for humiliating ourselves; sin, which is an offence against God and is our spiritual ruination, is the only thing which we can claim as properly belonging to us. Unfortunately, we have committed innumerable sins in thought, word, deed, and omission; alone and in public, by day and by night, as children and as adults; against the commandments of God, against the precepts of the Church, and against the obligations of our state in life. Our whole existence has been marred by offences and acts of ingratitude against God, our greatest Benefactor.
2. Another motive for humility is our deficiency in virtue. We have received many gifts from God, but what use have we made of them? We have received gifts of nature and of grace, good inspirations, good example, and precious time and opportunity for doing good. On those occasions when the voice of God spoke most clearly in our hearts, we made good resolutions and promised to abandon sin and to walk with greater fervour in the way of perfection. Unfortunately, however, we continue to lag behind. This is a new motive for humbling ourselves and for beseeching from God the gift of perseverance.
3. Finally, there is the transient nature of mortal life. One illness is enough to carry us to the grave, there to rot and to be eaten by worms. It is sufficient for the capillary vessel of the brain to be burst in order to render us incapable of forming a single thought or of uttering a single word. We imagine that we are very important, whereas in fact we are insignificant before God and before the mighty universe. Let us do our best, therefore, to be humble. If we can become as little children, God will be pleased with us and will make us members of His kingdom. “Unless you turn and become like little children, you will not enter into the kingdom of heaven.” (Mt. 18:3)