Working on two other virtues actually helps us to grow in humility.
Humility is an important virtue. A society in which humility isn’t practiced will soon become a sea of conflicting wills in which envy, pride, and arrogance lead to division and, eventually, mutual destruction. From a Christian perspective, humility is a virtue that Christ both practiced and invited us to practice: “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart” (Mt 11:29).
If we want to become more humble, we can be sure it will be a battle. We have to fight against our selfishness, which expresses itself in a thousand different ways. If we examine our conscience, right away we’ll note that in just one day, for example, we have given more importance to our own opinion than to that of others, we have organized our day thinking exclusively about our own benefit and not that of others, and we probably haven’t looked around us to see how we can help others.
These are just a few of the many common manifestations of pride that may be present in our life.
How can we bring our humility up a notch? How can we think less about ourselves and put the brakes on our pride?
Virtues are not isolated from each other. They’re connected, and that should motivate us because it means that when we fight to improve in one virtue, we will also improve in other virtues in the process. Sometimes, in fact, it’s easier to conquer a virtue by approaching it laterally, through concrete actions and attitudes that imply applying the virtue, rather than focusing on the virtue itself. Such is the case with humility.
For example, sincerity and obedience are two very concrete virtues that we can practice that help us grow in humility as well.
When we are sincere, we put our pride in its place. Being sincere means accepting that we’re not always going to come off smelling like a rose, because we have to be willing to recognize our errors and limitations in front of others. When we recognize that we’ve made a mistake, we take the first step towards asking for forgiveness.
Sincerity consists in saying the whole truth, not just partial truths that are convenient for us. It’s something we need to apply in our friendships, our family, our marriage, our work life, our relationship with God … in all aspects of our life.
When we are sincere, we experience the sensation of freedom and peace. It frees us from the bonds of deception and lies that trap us like a spider web. It’s a relief, even when it means that we have to pay a price for what we may have said or done in the past.
Being sincere makes us transparent to others, allowing them to know us as we are. We won’t be carrying around secrets that we’ve been hiding from people who are important in our life, nor the lingering doubt, “Would they still like me if they really knew me?” Our friends will know what we think and how we feel, which is vital for a strong friendship. When our friendships are based on truth, they will be resilient and solid.
If we’re habitually sincere with people and have a relationship of trust, it will help us overcome our fear of being vulnerable. Fear of openness limits us to superficial relationships; sincerity leads to deep, lasting friendships.
Through obedience, we submit ourselves to another person: our parents, our boss at work, local authorities … Especially as adults, obedience requires a decision, willingly doing what someone else tells us and, accepting the consequences of our obedience.
When we obey, we recognize that some has authority over us, and that makes us more humble. It means that we have evaluated the situation and recognize that this person is, in some aspect, above me.
Sometimes, obeying means we have to stop doing something we wanted to do and start going in a different direction according to what a person in authority has told us. It implies trusting another despite our own judgment or desires. We have to adopt a new perspective, give preference to other people, put our own plans on the back burner, and focus on other goals. Doing all of this is a way of exercising humility.
When it’s difficult to be humble and we don’t know how to begin improving, we can practice sincerity and obedience. If we work on them, even in little ways, they’ll be like two wheels that will help us progress towards our goal of humility.
11 Tips for growing in humility