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Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Towards an Understanding of True Humility

Before we can understand true humility, we must identify some characteristics of false humility.  Jesus in the beatitudes speaks favorably of the poor in spirit (for theirs is the kingdom of heaven) and of the meek (for they will inherit the earth).  We would have to say that Jesus himself represents these qualities.  We are well aware that Jesus did not shy away from truth-telling regarding the hypocrisy and self-righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees.  But this confrontation did not turn violent on Jesus’s part.  He did not take up arms against them but rather submitted to crucifixion at their hands.   Yet, it bears repeating that during his ministry he never backed down from verbal confrontation and honesty.  Therefore, being poor in spirit and meek together cannot mean ignoring bullies or joining in a complicit conspiracy of silence regarding their attitude and behavior.

So the most essential test of true humility is simple verbal honesty.  This must arise out of a heart of love.  Otherwise, it can turn into the judgmental dismissive attitude and hateful actions of the scribes and Pharisees.  Jesus bore no quarter in speaking his mind, but he forbore taking up the violent instruments of hate.  Jesus’s exercise of outspoken discernment without being self-righteously judgmental is confirmed primarily by his willingness to go to the cross.  True humility reflects the paradox of being immensely strong yet totally meek.  Jesus was indeed the Lamb of God.

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