“Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” (Jn 8:7)

Practice the Virtue of Humility

“Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” (Jn 8:7)

My mom had a way of cutting to the chase in a dozen words or less. Her goal was to help us get to heaven, so she always said there was no time for messing around. One day, I came home so excited that I had been given a solo part for an upcoming concert. Her response still sticks in my mind like a label on a jar! She smiled, told me she was proud of me and kissed my forehead. A millisecond later she said, “Now, don’t let it go to your head! Pridefulness isn’t pretty on anybody!” That was her style: love hard and speak the truth.

This passage from John’s Gospel challenges us to check our focus, as Jesus cast a beacon on humility. True humility calls us to look inward instead of out. It challenges us to focus on our own sinfulness and relationship with the Father. Competition and comparison can be the norm, but those are not the things that will win us the rewards of heaven. St. Augustine said, “It was pride that changed angels into devils; it is humility that makes men as angels.”

If sainthood is our mission, then humility seems to be one of the tools of the trade. Humility is not a sign of weakness or passiveness – it’s the opposite. True humility allows us to see and act like Jesus. Remember Jesus' words in Luke 14: "For every one who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted." Here are some ideas for helping us grow in humility.

  • Talk about yourself as little as possible. If we believe God truly knows us and the desires of our heart and our focus is to please him, rather than those here on earth, this makes perfect sense.
  • Choose the more difficult or less appealing jobs. There is great humility in doing the task nobody else wants to do.
  • Don’t worry about other people’s business, don’t talk about other people’s business and don’t even be curious about things that don’t concern you.
  • Recognize your talents, gifts and graces, then promptly thank God for them and move along. We should use them well, but the ambition to be the best or be recognized is not going to build our humility.

Humility keeps us grounded, balanced and rooted in the Lord. It also helps us “look up,” instead of being tempted to “pick up” stones we have no business throwing.

Pray: Spend some time prayerfully considering where you might need to grow in humility. Pray about gossip, pride, comparison and competition, asking the Father to help you identify any area you can change or surrender. If you’re really up for a challenge, begin to pray the Litany of Humility.

Study: Scripture is full of wisdom and direction on humility. Look up one of the words above that might be tugging at your heart, and find some encouragement in God’s word.

Engage: Choose one of the suggestions above and put it into practice. Maybe you could volunteer for a task at your parish that is more difficult or undesirable, such as the clean-up crew, as a way to practice humble service.

Serve: The greatest way to shift the focus from ourselves is to shift it to others. Start a conversation with someone with the purpose of genuinely listening, or generously offer one of your gifts or talents to build someone up.