How to Practice Humility

How are we to come to this saving humility, leaving behind us the deadly swelling of arrogance? By exercising ourselves in it in all things, and by keeping in mind that there is nothing which cannot be a danger to us.  For the soul becomes like the things it gives itself to; and takes the character and appearance of what it does.  Let your demeanour, your dress, your walking, your sitting down, the nature of your food, the quality of your bed, your house and what it contains, aim at simplicity.  And let your speech, your singing, your manner with your neighbour, let these things also be more in accord with humility than with vanity.  In your words let there be no empty pretence, in your singing no excessive sweetness, in conversation be not ponderous or overbearing.  In everything refrain from seeking to appear important.  Be a help to your friends, kind to the ones who live with you, gentle to your servant, patient with those who are troublesome, loving towards the lowly, comforting to those in trouble, visiting those in affliction, never despising anyone, gracious in friendship, cheerful in answering others, courteous, approachable to everyone, never speaking your own praises, nor getting others to speak them, never taking part in unbecoming conversation, and concealing where you may whatever gifts you possess.

On the contrary, accuse yourself of your own faults (Prov. xviii. 17), and do not wait for others to find fault with you: that you may be like the just man who in the beginning of his speech is his own accuser (Job xxxi. 34); that you may be like Job who was not ashamed to confess his faults before the multitude in the city.  Do not be heavy in rebuking; nor reproach another quickly or in heat (for this is a kind of arrogance), and do not find fault over little things, as though you yourself were wholly perfect.  Give your help to those who have made a slip, helping them spiritually to restore themselves, as the Apostle warns us: Considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted(Gal. vi. 1).

Be as eager not to be glorified among men as others are to acquire glory among them, provided you remember the words of Christ, that he loses his reward with God who looks to be honoured before men, and does good that he may be seen by men.  For, He says, I say to you, they have received their reward.  So do not bring loss upon yourself, seeking to be esteemed by men.  Since God is a great watcher of men, seek glory from God; for He gives a splendid reward.  Have you attained to dignity, that men should stand about you, and show you respect?  Then become like those subject to you; not as having power, as the Scripture says, lording it over the clergy (I Pet. v. 3); and not after the manner of earthly rulers.  For he who would be first, the Lord has commanded him to be the servant of all (Mt. x. 44).

In brief then; follow after humility, as a lover of it.  Love it, and it will glorify you.  If you wish to travel to the true glory, this is the way, with the angels, and with God.  And in the presence of the angels Christ will acknowledge you as His disciple; and He will give you glory if you have imitated His humility Who said: Learn of me, because I am meek and humble of heart, and you shall find rest to your souls (Mt. xi. 29): To Whom be glory and empire for ever and ever.  Amen.

~ St. Basil, On Humility, chapter 7


About Fr Joseph Gleason

I serve as a priest at Christ the King Orthodox Mission in Omaha, Illinois, and am blessed with eight children and one lovely wife. I contribute to On Behalf of All, a simple blog about Orthodox Christianity. I also blog here at The Orthodox Life.
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