How the Devil Redefines Humility

Humility is a virtue that is one of the hardest to acquire. While we all know what pride looks like, few of us have been taught how to practice true humility. The devil pounces on this lack of knowledge and twists the definition of humility around in our minds, convincing us that we are practicing a virtue when we are not even close.

We may think we are humble, but we are actually feeding on the lies of the devil.

Here is how Screwtape puts it,

You must therefore conceal from the patient the true end of Humility. Let him think of it not as self-forgetfulness but as a certain kind of opinion (namely, a low opinion) of his own talents and character….By this method thousands of humans have been brought to think that humility means pretty women trying to believe they are ugly and clever men trying to believe they are fools…[God, on the other hand,] would rather the man thought himself a great architect or a great poet and then forgot about it, than that he should spend much time and pains trying to think himself a bad one. (71-72, emphasis added)

Often we think we are being humble when we put ourselves down in front of other people and tell everyone how terrible we are. That is not humility. God knows how beautiful and how talented we are and desires that we use the gifts we have for His greater glory. We are precious in His eyes and He never wants us to deny the work He has done within us.

Here are some prime examples of true humility as expressed by Jesus Christ, the Exemplar of Humility:

My teaching is not my own. It comes from him who sent me. If anyone chooses to do God’s will, he will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own. He who speaks on his own does so to gain honor for himself, but he who works for the honor of the one who sent him is a man of truth; there is nothing false about him (John 7:16-18).

I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me. The one who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what pleases him” (John 8:28-29).

For I did not speak of my own accord, but the Father who sent me commanded me what to say and how to say it. I know that his command leads to eternal life. So whatever I say is just what the Father has told me to say” (John 12:48-50). (Catholic Exchange, emphasis added)

As we can see from the words of Jesus, humility consists of not denying the goodness of ourselves or the talents we have received, but instead recognizing the true source of every good thing.

Screwtape confirms this when he writes,

The Enemy [God] wants to bring the man to a state of mind in which he could design the best cathedral in the world, and know it to be the best, and rejoice in the fact….The Enemy wants him, in the end, to be so free from any bias in his own favour that he can rejoice in his own talents as frankly and gratefully as in his neighbour’s talents–or in a sunrise, an elephant, or a waterfall. He wants each man, in the long run, to be able to recognize all creatures (even himself) as glorious and excellent things. (71, emphasis added)

Humility is not “woe is me.” It is knowing the beauty and glory of God and seeing it revealed in ourselves and in our neighbor. When someone compliments us, our disposition should be that of joy, redirecting the honor to God who has given us everything.

Humility then is not a virtue that is depressing, but is meant to be joyful and to lift us up out of ourselves so that we can be focused on God.

Takeaway Point #11: Practice true humility and be grateful for the gifts God has given you.

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***If you would like to follow-along reading the The Screwtape Letters, I suggest to purchase your own copy of C.S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters. If you don’t like reading, I highly suggest buying the dramatization of the letters by Focus on the Family, called The Screwtape Letters: First Ever Full-cast Dramatization of the Diabolical Classic (Radio Theatre). It features Andy Serkis, who played Gollum in The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit and is well produced.

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