humility nature of man

Battling Pride

6:00:00 AMClarissa Traub


It has been at least 5 years now, and yet I will never forget the talk I heard during a Lenten Mission at my church. The speaker was illuminating the virtue of humility. I think it was the simplicity of the message that stuck with me.

Humility is Truth.

St. Teresa of Avila is often attributed with saying this one-word definition of humility. In humility, we are fully conscious of our own being and personhood. Von Hildebrand describes this realization as a “blissful assent to our creatureliness and our nothingness, our entire dependence on God” (41). Humility is not a rejection of oneself, but rather, a response to the vast distance between absolute and creaturely being. It is important to remember that God has impacted dignity to man's very nature. Negating this gift of man’s ontological dignity is disregarding the glory of God. In this light, humility can be described as recognizing the glory of God and recognizing how important we are in God’s sight.


The antithesis of humility is pride. Battling pride is an old episode in the history of man. Pride is the deepest root of evil within us, as seen in Adam’s sin. In Humility: Wellspring of Virtue, Von Hildebrand discusses self-complacency as a form of pride. Self-complacency is being overly pleased with oneself. At heart the self-complacent man is “afflicted with value-blindness. For it is not the intrinsic importance of the good and the beautiful that moves him; he is interested in values merely as an ornament of his own self” (60). Self-complacency varies according to the class of values it abuses for personal honor. If the value is considered higher, the worse it is to boast about. According to von Hildebrand, this is a paradox clearly seen in the Pharisees of Jesus’ time. The Pharisee, boasting of his piety and holiness, abuses these higher values. With this, he is incapable of love, incapable of self-surrender.


Humility means accepting the truth about ourselves, including our strengths and weaknesses. We must acknowledge that all of our strengths and our dignity are gifts from God. We should never deny the gifts He has given us.


Von Hildebrand, Dietrich. Humility: Wellspring of Virtue. Manchester, NH: Sophia Institute, 1997. Print.




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