Humility and Love

I had a chat with my friend Paco yesterday. Paco is a Lay Cistercian and shares my love of the contemplative life. He was my “angel” (my mentor/ “big brother”) during my novitiate as a Lay Cistercian, so we’ve become pretty good friends. I asked Paco to read the unedited manuscript of The Big Book of Christian Mysticism and he stopped by my office yesterday to tell me he had finished it. His main criticism of the book is that he felt I did not stress humility enough. “You mention it,” he said, “but I think we need to stress it as an absolutely central part of the spiritual life.”

We talked about this for a bit. We talked about how humility is not the same as low self-esteem — on the contrary, low self-esteem can often by a form of inverse pride, for pride is “all about me” and putting oneself down can be a subtle way of keeping one’s attention focused on the self rather than on God or on others. We talked about the relationship between humility and earthiness. We talked about how, ultimately, humility is about creating the space within us to receive God and God’s blessings. So humility is related to hospitality. Paco said with a twinkle in his eye, “it’s almost as if, the more humble we become, the more God is ‘forced’ to be present to us.” We both laughed at the silliness of his metaphor, and then I mused, “Perhaps the spiritual life ultimately can be reduced to two simple, fundamental choices: choosing humility instead of pride, and choosing love instead of fear.”

He beamed at me with a knowing smile. Yes, it really is that simple.

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  • Jim Thornber

    Long ago I was taught that where there is pride, there is fear. I don’t think I completely grasped that concept until now. Wherever there is true love there is humility, for love always finds a way to look out for the needs of others above our own. Hence, Calvary. Also, pride produces fear — fear that others will succeed and I will not, etc. Whenever I choose love and humility then fear and pride have no place to take root in my soul. I like that.



  • Kevin Radcliffe

    Paco raises an excellent point. I personally feel that the word “humility” is a bit too overloaded though, and perhaps it is difficult to address it directly. It is almost as if we imagine that since we know the word humility, we think we “have it”. Perhaps there are other interesting ways to deal with humility through action, service, compassion.

    Just thinking aloud ;) As always, thanks for your valuable posts Carl!
    Peace and Love to you and yours,

  • Brother Don

    Humility is an infinite state, you try to achieve it but you can never get there. Like Buddhists trying to get to the enlightened state.
    Keep trying though :-)

  • Jo

    “The man who is truly meek is the one who is truly amazed that God and man can think of him as well as they do and treat him as well as they do.”
    Martin Lloyd-Jones

    I read this the other day and I cannot get it out of my head. A humility that is not forced, coerced, or manufactured. It is a regression of sorts to the newness of soul. Unmarred and pure. Delighting in and just overwhelmingly grateful for all. How I long for that, but also realize “I” cannot achieve it. Only He in me – I must wait expectantly.