It takes great pride to be a sinner or a sufferer. You have to have more faith in yourself as a part of this world than you have faith in anything else, to turn mistakes into sin and challenges into suffering.
Humility is often thought of only in the context of achievements. We admire the great man who does something amazing yet doesn’t become overbearing or self-promoting. We abhor the small man who thinks himself great yet hasn’t done anything amazing. Somehow, the idea of humility has become all bound up with the idea of worldly success.
Humility is a virtue and worldly success does not arise from virtue. In fact, worldly success is most often at the expense of virtue. Worldly endeavor is most often motivated by attachment – greed, pride, or fear. How could attachment, which causes suffering, be the most frequent basis for a virtue, which alleviates suffering?
The Failure of Worldly Measuring Sticks
Why do we esteem the man of worldly success above the man of virtue, as if social status somehow equated with happiness? Surely we know better than that, as a tribe.
Do not imagine that if you meet a really humble man he will be what most people call “humble” nowadays: he will not be a sort of greasy, smarmy person, who is always telling you that, of course, he is nobody. Probably all you will think about him is that he seemed a cheerful, intelligent chap who took a real interest in what you said to him. If you do dislike him it will be because you feel a little envious of anyone who seems to enjoy life so easily. He will not be thinking about humility: he will not be thinking about himself at all.
C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity
Humility is better understood in the context of condemnation. To admire the man who does something amazing is not humble, it’s a condemnation of the rest. To abhor the prideful man is also judgmental, to suppose that you are better than he is. The common idea of humility, bound up in the doers of achievements, is itself a demonstration of pride. Admire the great deed, not he who performed it.
In the same way, if you condemn yourself because of your past actions, you elevate those past actions to sin. You presume that you are able to stain your soul, that you are especially low or degraded compared to others, and that you could take meaningful action against God. To think yourself, or anyone else, a sinner is to be prideful. Condemn the miserable deed, not he who performed it.
If you think yourself a great sufferer, you presume that your suffering exceeds that of other people – that you’re just as special as the man of great accomplishments. To think yourself, or anyone else, an extreme sufferer is to suppose that person is in hell. And how can there be hell without sin or bad karma? Even if you suppose the purely innocent are in hell, you’re casting a judgment on God. You must first condemn someone to hell before you can imagine he or she is there.
Humility is Forgiveness and Acknowledgement
When you understand you have not sinned, you can then take action to correct your mistakes. When you understand that someone else has not sinned, you have forgiven them and yourself – you’ve allowed recovery. You are a part of redemption when you tell all your brothers and sisters that they have not sinned.
When you understand that there is an illusory world of suffering blinding us to the reality of love, you have a basis for communication with all the Children of God. Although simple words may fall on deaf ears, you’ll be able to hear and respond to their plaintive requests for love. When you acknowledge the divinity and holiness in one who suffers, be it yourself or another, you’ve established the foundation for a miracle. All the darkness is equally false, and miracles erase suffering by correcting the misunderstanding and removing the illusion.
Affirmations of Humility
Today, let us practice humility. I’m nobody very special and neither are you. All the Children of God were created together, stand forever as equals, and eternally abound in the grace and light of spirit. Because nobody is special, we can bear witness to the light and love of creation. Because nobody is special, everyone is forgiven.
I have not sinned, but I have made mistakes. I forgive myself and look to correct my mistakes.
Others have not sinned, but they have made mistakes. I forgive them and help them recover.
I do not suffer, but I have misunderstood love. I seek peace, joy, and laughter in every storm.
Others do not suffer, but they have lost faith in miracles. I acknowledge the spark of divinity in all beings and seek the miracle.