St. Bernard wrote a treatise entitled The Steps of Humility and Pride.  In it the saint shows that a step-by-step growth in humility involves a constant effort to grow into truth.  Perhaps the shortest definition of humility is to say humility is truth.  But that needs some elaboration.  The truth in question is one that has been recognized from ancient times; namely, that any talent, any virtue we have, any success we enjoy, and any good we accomplish is ultimately a grace, a gift from God.  Humility is not a denial of those gifts. That would be a false humility.  It is simply recognizing their ultimate source.  Humility is a virtue that derives from a profound reverence toward God.  It consists in recognizing our true position relative to our creator and in acting accordingly.

St. Francis de Sales said “humility is nothing other than the courage to face the truth about one’s self in all its rigor and consequences.”  What is that truth?  It consists in recognizing that I am a sinner.  I need to understand that I am capable of sin.  That remains true even when I am burning with the desire to please God.  That realization is humbling.  It leads me to understand the goodness of God in sustaining me and that I must place all my confidence not in myself, but in the merits of Jesus.

Humility is sometimes referred to as the “little” virtue.  It is, in fact, far from little.  It involves a fundamental orientation of one’s life.  Humility means discovering that everything we have, every faculty, every talent, every success is a gift of God.  Thus whatever in our lives is dedicated to God’s service, whatever we offer to God is, in a sense, already God’s own.

True humility cannot be achieved by self-analysis, no matter how thorough.  It can have its source only in a deep sense of God’s all-pervading sovereignty  and a profound sense of reverence arising from this.  It requires cooperation with grace.  By our very nature we tend to be self-absorbed.  As infants we were totally self-centered.  As we grew we had to learn not everything revolved around us.  We learned to recognize our limitations and our dependence on others. At each stage of life we are challenged to become less and less self-centered, less and less self-absorbed.  On the spiritual level we are challenged to recognize and accept our complete dependence on God.  Doing that is to grow in humility.