Mother Teresa and Pope John Paul II on May 2, 1992. (L'Osservatore Romano photo)
The world does not value or understand the power of humility but we do, because it was what Jesus used to save us.
Good self-esteem is confidence in one's worth or abilities. Think about Mother Teresa. That little nun had good self-esteem. She even dared to speak against abortion at the National Prayer Breakfast in 1993 before her invited hosts President Bill Clinton, and Vice President Al Gore, and their spouses. That’s guts. That’s self-confidence. And that’s humility.
All the saints understood that humility is the way to nail down a good self-esteem by depending on God rather than oneself. It’s the understanding that everything comes from God and that God is everything.
Mother Teresa called humility the mother of all virtues. She said: “If you are humble nothing will touch you, neither praise nor disgrace, because you know what you are. If you are blamed you will not be discouraged. If they call you a saint you will not put yourself on a pedestal.”
3 Myths About Humility
Humility, however, is often misunderstood. Some think it is synonymous with self-deprecation. In a recent Sunday homily, Fr. Jared Johnson, associate pastor of Cathedral of the Holy Spirit in Bismarck identified three myths about humility.
Myth #1. The humble souls lacks confidence. “The most humble people out there are some of the most confident and sometimes some of the most prideful people are the most insecure,” he said. “ Humble souls know their life is dependent on God and know what to value—things lasting not passing. They values the Lord over anything else
Myth #2. Humility is not attractive. “True humility is attractive,” he explained. “It is the humble person who listens and cares about others as opposed to the one focused on their self and trying to look good.”
Myth #3. Humble people want to be recognized as humble. Father Johnson explained that wanting to look humble is false humility. In reality, he said they simply want to do something because it is right and they are not looking for praise.
“Our greatest block to growing closer to God is when we rely more on us than on him,” Father Johnson said. By putting on the virtue of humility, he explained that we grow more confident and allow ourselves to grow closer to God. “When we look at a crucifix, we see a man who is humble and who is not about himself. We see a man who is for others. May we imitate that humility so that we can experience God in his fullness.”
Ways to Become Humble
Mother Teresa’s example proves all three of Fr. Johnson’s points. While she was head of the Missionaries of Charity, Mother Teresa kept a list of ways to cultivate humility for the sisters in her care.
- Speak as little as possible about yourself.
- Keep busy with your own affairs and not those of others.
- Avoid curiosity (she is referring to wanting to know things that should not concern you.)
- Do not interfere in the affairs of others.
- Accept small irritations with good humor.
- Do not dwell on the faults of others.
- Accept censures even if unmerited.
- Give in to the will of others.
- Accept insults and injuries.
- Accept contempt, being forgotten and disregarded.
- Be courteous and delicate even when provoked by someone.
- Do not seek to be admired and loved.
- Do not protect yourself behind your own dignity.
- Give in, in discussions, even when you are right.
- Choose always the more difficult task.
The Power of Humility
“It was pride that changed angels into devils; it is humility that makes men as angels.” —Saint Augustine
The devil preferred to leave Heaven for eternity in Hell rather than to humble himself before his creator. And humility would have protected Adam and Eve from thinking they could disobey God and become like him.
Yet through our humility and thus obedience to God, the devil is defeated. St. John Vianney, the Curé of Ars, who was often harassed by the devil, related a conversation with him. The devil said: “I can do everything you do, I can also do your penances, I can imitate you in everything. There is one thing, however, that I cannot do, I cannot imitate you in humility."
"That is why I defeat you,” St. John Vianney responded.
Humility seems to be a contradiction, and yet, Jesus was meek and humble of heart (Matthew 11:29). “He emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men.” (Philippians 2:7)
The world does not value or understand the power of humility but we do, because it was what Jesus used to save us. “Just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:28)