Humility involves an active self-knowledge, knowledge that recognizes our limitations and our sinfulness. It also recognizes our dependence on an all-powerful God, who is merciful and forgiving. Thus it expresses itself in gratitude.
There is a kind of false humility which consists in an unwarranted putting down of one-self. Dag Hammerskjold said it well. “Humility is as much the opposite of self-abasement as it is of self-exaltation.” Humility does not exclude confidence. The difference between the proud person and the humble person is not that the former is confident and the latter is not. The difference is that the confidence of the proud is in himself and that of the humble is in God.
The virtue of humility has great value as an antidote to pride. Pride has been called a “capital sin”. That does not mean prideful acts are necessarily grave sins. It simply means that pride is one of those sins that typically engenders other sins. Pride can make us blind. Pride can lead us to think we are better than we are. Pride can lead us to look down on, despise others. Pride can lead us to believe it is our own strength or courage or iron will that produces whatever good there is in us. Pride leads to the illusion of independence. There is nothing so completely useless as the illusion that we are self-sufficient … and there is nothing so completely false. Clearly those are tendencies sorely in need of an antidote. The antidote is humility.
To be humble is o walk a spiritual tightrope. We need to balance the knowledge of our blessedness and our brokenness. As Psalm 8:5 put it we are “little less than a god,” We are a chosen people. At the same time we are wounded and fallible, unable to respond fully on our own to our destiny. To be humble is to grasp our humanness. To be humble is to live the paradox of our nature as both blessed and broken. To be humble we must have a clear understanding of who we are and of our relationship with God. We are humble when our conduct is dictated by that knowledge. Saints know their weaknesses are remedied by the power of Christ. St. Paul put it this way: “It is then about my weakness hat I am happiest of all to boast, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” (2Cor. 12:9)