Thursday, May 24, 2012
One virtue that is often misunderstood today is the virtue of humility. For a lot of people, they think of humility as thinking little of their own gifts and talents, as distinct from pride, which they think consists of thinking too much of one's gifts and talents. As a matter of fact, however, I do not think either of those definitions are correct. Rather, humility (in contrast to pride) consists in a sort of forgetfulness of self. It is the ultimate form of realism. To the extent that one has been blessed by God with great talents, it is not "humble" (not to mention it is not honest) to pretend that such gifts are "nothing". Indeed, if anything, that approaches more to ungratefulness to God for His great gifts, rather than humility (speaking only from an objective standpoint, and not taking into account personal factors). To be fair, I believe that this false form of "humility", when it displays itself in many people, is not really due to ungratefulness, though, but rather from the fear of committing pride. Such people are so concerned of being guilty of the latter, that they fall into the opposite error. As such, it is an extremely pardonable error, but it is an error nonetheless. Instead of falling for the opposite error, however, they need to strive for the opposite virtue. For what does this false form of humility have in common with pride, being two sides of the same coin? They both concentrate on the self. True humility, however, consists of forgetfulness of self, insofar as it does not deny the talents that one may possess. But it focuses its attention on the source of those gifts, God, rather than on the self. The person realizes that, in and of himself, he is indeed nothing. But through the power of God, he has been given gifts and talents. He does not deny the talents, but gives glory to their divine Author, and in the process forgets himself. While the proud person may be quite accurate in his appraisal of the value of the talents and qualities that he has, his error consists in regarding himself as the source of such things, or, in other words, he does not recognize that they are gifts. Those who are humble are under no such delusions, since they are able to seeing everything clearly through the true Light.