The one good which man seeks is the fulfilment of his being, or as they say nowadays, to be fulfilled. Things are either “fulfilling” or not, if not then they are not worth doing. At least that is what your average man on the street thinks. In a way there is some truth in this, We all desire our own excellence, or superiority, or to be considered better than the average “Joe six-pack.”
The virtue of temperance, as far as it refers to this natural urge to the order of reason, is called humility. So the ground of humility is man’s estimation of himself according to truth. In other words to take a good look at oneself as we really are. Take away all the show and exterior, and see ourselves in reference to the Truth. And that is almost all there is to it.
The best way to see what true humility is firstly, is to see that humility and high-mindedness are not opposed to one another, but in fact are neighbours and are equally opposed to pride and what we might call “wimpishness.”
Firstly what is high-mindedness? It is the striving of the mind towards great things. The high-minded man is the one who feels, and sees the opportunity for greatness, and prepares his mind for it. In a certain way he is selective, he will keep himself for the greatness to which he feels he is inclined. But above all he aims for that which is demanding of the highest honour. So if a man would not take care to do what is deserving of honour, he would be deserving of reproach. We would call him a “wimp.” The high-minded man despises everything small-minded, he is not overly worried above the small things, he despises everything small-minded.
Fearless frankness, that is, to tell the truth no matter what the consequences might be, is a mark of the high-minded man. The high-minded man does not complain; for his heart is impervious, that is, rock solid, when it comes to external evil. High-mindedness means an unshakeable firmness of hope, and the perfect peace of a fearless heart. The high-minded man bows neither to confusion of the soul, nor to any man, nor to fate, but to God alone. The high-minded man is truly a “Braveheart.”
Therefore, a humility too weak, and too narrow to able to bear the inner tension of living with high-mindedness, is not true humility.
But people are quick to call the high-minded man proud, or haughty, over confident in his own strength of ability. Pride refers to man’s relationship to God. Pride is a false conception or idea of the relationship between the creature and the creator, it denies the creaturely nature of man. Every sin contains a two-fold element, first the turning away from God, and second the turning to a created thing. The decisive element is the first, that is, the turning away from God, and this is more profound in pride than in any other sin.
Humility looks first to God. That which pride denies and destroys, humility affirms and preserves, namely that man is a creature. This is the inner most nature of man, so humility is the “subjection of man to God.” Secondly, humility is not a mere outward behaviour but comes from inside, flowing from our will. It is the plain acceptance that man and humanity are not God, nor “like God” as the old serpent tried to tell Eve.
Opposed to the virtue of humility is pride. Pride is the inordinate desire of one’s own excellence. There are four principal manifestations of Pride:
- to think that one’s gifts and talents are from oneself
- to believe that the gifts of God are due strictly and solely to one’s own merits
- to boast of possessing that which one does not have
- to despise others and wish to appear the exclusive possessor of that which one has.