This is an abridged and freely paraphrased version of "Acts of Humility" from Holy Living by Jeremy Taylor.
The grace of humility is exercised by these following rules:
- Don't think better of yourself on account of things that happen outside yourself. You may be better than another person, by virtue of the gifts you've been given, in the same way that one horse may be better than another by being of more use to others. As a human, you have no reason to be proud of yourself except by what distinguishes you from the animals, namely what you choose and refuse.
- Humility consists not in reviling yourself, wearing shabby clothes, or being quiet and submissive, but in holding a genuinely low regard for yourself. Be heartily convinced that you are an unworthy person, just as you believe yourself to be hungry, or poor, or sick, when these things are true of you.
- If you call yourself a fool, don't be angry if someone else says the same of you. Everyone in the world wants others to agree with them when they speak the truth, and he is a hypocrite that accuses himself in front of others but doesn't intend to be believed.
- Love to be concealed and held in low esteem; be content to lack praise, never being troubled when you are slighted or undervalued; for you cannot undervalue yourself, and if you think as little of yourself as you ought to, no contempt will seem unreasonable, and therefore it will be very tolerable.
- Never be ashamed of your birth, or your parents, or your trade, or your current employment, because of the lowliness or poverty of any of them; but speak as readily and indifferently of lowliness as of greatness. Primislaus, the first king of Bohemia, always kept his country shoes by him, to remember where he was came from; and Agathocles, by what was on his table, reminded himself that he was raised from a potter to be the king of Sicily.
- Never say anything that would directly lead to your praise or glory, whose only purpose is to commend yourself.
- When you have said or done anything for which you receive praise, take it indifferently, and return it to God, reflecting upon Him as the giver of the gift, or the one who blessed the action, or the one who helped your plan; and give God thanks for making you an instrument of His glory, for the benefit of others.
- Gain a good name by living virtuously and humbly; let others use your good name for their own advantage, let them speak of it if they please, but don't use it yourself except as an instrument to honor God, and give your neighbor more advantage.
- Don't be satisfied when praise is offered to you, but let your rejoicing in God's gift be mixed with fear, lest this good thing bring you to evil.
- Don't use strategies or tricks to get praise. Some mention the faults of their own actions or words, intending to hear that it was well done or well said and faultless. Others bring themselves into conversations, or thrust themselves into company, until by drinking the waters of vanity they swell and burst.
- Don't console yourself, when you are disgraced or slighted, by supposing you deserved praise, though others misunderstood you or enviously took attention away from you. Don't gather to yourself a private theatre with flatterers, in whose vain noises and praise you can prop up your own good opinion of yourself.
- Don't entertain fancies of vanity and private whispers of this devil of pride. Some people will walk alone, and dream (though waking) of greatness, of palaces, of excellent speeches, full theaters, loud applause, sudden advancement, great fortunes, and so will spend an hour with imaginative pleasure, which is nothing but fumes of pride, and an indication of what their heart wishes. Though there's nothing directly vicious in this, it is not in the least consistent with the safety and interests of humility.
- Allow others to be complimented in your presence, and be delighted to see good and glory come to them. Don't disparage them: if others think more highly of them, that doesn't make you worth less as a person.
- Be satisfied to see another person employed, even though you are passed over as unprofitable; his words approved, though yours are rejected; him preferred, while you are held in low esteem.
- Never compare yourself with others, unless it is to advance them and abase yourself. To this end, you should be sure in one way or another to think yourself the worst in every group you enter: one is better educated than I, another is more prudent, a third honorable, a fourth more pure, or more generous, or less proud. Though it is always good to have a low regard for ourselves, it is never safe to speak it, because those circumstances which determine your thoughts are not known to others as they are to you. But if you keep your thoughts and opinions of yourself truly humble, you can with more safety give God thanks in public for the good things which cannot or ought not to be concealed.
- Don't be quick to excuse every oversight, or indiscretion, or mistake; but if you are guilty of it, say so plainly; for "virtue scorns a lie for its cover." If you are not guilty, unless it's something scandalous, don't be quick to remove it, but instead use it as an argument to punish all greatness of imagination and opinion of yourself, and make a habit of accepting criticism patiently and with contentment.
- Thank God for every weakness, deformity, and imperfection, and accept it as a means of resisting pride and nourishing humility.
- Be careful never to praise yourself, or to comment disapprovingly of anyone else, unless God's glory or some godly purpose makes it holy.
- Humility teaches us to submit ourselves and all our faculties to God, to 'believe all things, hope all things, endure all things' to which His will directs us, to be content in every situation or change; to adore His goodness, to fear His greatness, to worship His eternal and infinite excellence, and to submit ourselves to all our superiors in all things according to godliness, and to be humble and gentle in our conduct towards others.
Copyright 2004 sean boisen
Theme Design by Bryan Bell