Grace to you!
Humility is crucial to divine blessing. It’s a modest but truthful estimation of ourselves in relation to others, whether in thoughts or in actions. In Chapter 19 of my book, Word for a Wounded World, Volume I, I treated humility in a little more details. It may be a good read for you. Here, inspired by biblical teachings in the Book of Sirach 3:17-20, and the Gospel of Luke 14:1-14, I share what I consider twelve signs of humility.
1. Honesty. A humble person is honest all the way. The person is honest about his or her strengths, weaknesses and limitations. Because the humble are honest, they are not surprised by their weaknesses since they know without grace, they could be worse.
2. I am sorry. The ability to say, “I am sorry” when we offend somebody, without being compelled to do so, is a sure sign of humility. The biblical story of the publican, who knelt asking for mercy (Lk 18:9-14), is a case in point, at least from the viewpoint of our relationship with God. It applies to our relationship with one another too.
3. Openness to other’s opinion and allowing them to express it. The humble are open to other people’s ideas; and, even if those ideas don’t seem to agree with what they think, they give them unbiased attention. It’s a sign of humility to have a listening ear and not to dominate the discussion.
4. Not self-absorbing. It’s a sign of humility to be altruistic; that is, not being self-centered. Humility makes us reach out to others and consider not simply what is good for me, but what is good for the other person as well. For the humble, reality isn’t just what I perceive, but what another sees as well. It’s simply not always about me. It’s also about others.
5. Gratitude. It’s a great sign of humility to say, “thank you.” As simple as it sounds, it’s revealing of a heart that realizes a gift isn’t an entitlement, but a favor, and must be appreciated no matter how little. Even when the gift isn’t to be used or accepted, a thank you is still a gesture of humility.
6. Readiness to ask. The readiness to ask for help when we need it is a sign of humility. Contrary to what many think; during moments of real need, when one can’t help oneself, it demands humility to ask for help. “I need food, money, job, opportunity, mentorship, tutorial, technical support, etc.,” are all signs of humility. The proud don’t want to ask; and like the proverbial person being drowned, unless the drowning raise their hand for help, no one would rescue them. Many sink because of pride.
7. Prayer. It’s a sign of humility to pray. Many who are unbelievers may not like this principle. However, think about it: isn’t it evident that when we acknowledge the supremacy of God and pray to God, indirectly we are submitting to divine authority? It’s humility. Many who minister in massive security prisons, where inmates are gang members, would testify that the act of bowing or kneeling for the blessing of a minister is a sign of submission to a higher authority. To kneel is a sign of humility.
8. Forgiveness. It takes a humble heart to forgive others. Forgiveness is an indirect acknowledgement of the fact that we also offend others; and nobody, including us, is perfect. The proud do not give people a second chance. The humble do.
9. Tolerance. Humility is manifested through tolerance. The more humble people are, the more tolerant of other’s they tend to be. Just like love, humility has a way of finding excuses for the flaws of others and being accommodating.
10. Empathy. It’s in the very nature of humility to place oneself in the shoes of another person. By so doing, we are indirectly influenced to be kind to them, as we would want others to be kind to us. Just like kindness, humility is the virtue of identifying with the weak.
11. Easy to let go. The humble find it easy to let go. Hence, they are often seen as weak, or people who don’t know how to fight for their rights. Actually, they are the most courageous and disciplined people one can ever meet. It takes a lot of courage to let go.
12. Gracious speech. Finally, the humble speak graciously. Borrowing the phrase of Saint Paul, their words are “gracious, seasoned with salt” (Colossians 4:6). Even when they know far more than an average person in the room, they don’t sound abrasive, arrogant or cocky. They are polite. People want to be around them because they make people feel welcome, and their opinions valued.
Scripture says: “My child, conduct your affairs with humility, and you will be loved more than a giver of gifts. Humble yourself the more, the greater you are, and you will find favor with God” (Sirach 3:17-18).
The Lord tells us: “For every one who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted” (Luke 14:11).
Jesus meek and humble of heart, make our hearts like unto yours. Amen
God love you. God bless you.
Fr. Maurice Emelu
Fr. Maurice Emelu, Ph.D.
Father Maurice provides a daily blog of reflections based on the bible readings of the day from the Catholic liturgical calendar. You will find these reflections helpful for your spiritual growth, inspiration and developing your own thoughts. It may also be helpful for ministers in preparing their sermons for liturgical celebrations.