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What Exactly Is Humility?

"You are she who is not, and I am He Who is."

St. Catherine of Siena, a fourteenth century mystic and Doctor of the Church, would experience visions from God and hold full conversations with Him right before her eyes. On one of these occasions, God said to her, “Do you know, daughter, who you are and who I am? If you know these two things you will have beatitude within your grasp.  You are she who is not, and I am He Who is.” In saying this, He reminded Catherine of their places in the divine order of things. This is the essence of the virtue of humility: to know where we stand.

Humility is something that creatives struggle with on a deep basis. We tend to gravitate in one of two extremes. Either our egos become so inflated with a sense of pride that we become unbearable, or we tend to be so hard on ourselves that we genuinely cannot see when we do well. In those cases, we see all the flaws and none of the beauty. Neither of these represent the virtue of humility. In the first case, it’s easy to see that inflated ego is not the humble stance, but too often we also tend to think that humility is crushing ourselves to the ground, reducing our talents, our abilities, and ultimately our complete selves to nothing at all. 

But this is not what true humility is. Humility is seeing ourselves the way God sees us – and He sees us in totality. He sees us for who we are. He sees our strengths and our weaknesses side by side, and loves us all the more for it. He desires to enter into the places of weakness and wounded-ness, of sin and sorrow, all in order to cleanse and heal us so that we might be fully united with Him someday in heaven. 

When we see ourselves through this perspective, this brings us to a place of humility: recognizing our own brokenness so that we might be healed, recognizing the patterns of sin that appear in our lives so we can bring them before the Lord and so He can redeem and transform those places, and recognizing our strengths so we might better understand where we can best serve the Kingdom of God on this earth and glorify Him through our lives. 

In order to glorify God through our music, then, this is where we must start: from a place of humility, recognizing Who God is and who we are, giving praise to Him for the gifts He has given to us, asking Him to enter into the broken places of our hearts so we may be healed, both for unity with Him and for Him to better work through us. 

This is not a place we must begin from once, because humility doesn’t tend to come naturally for us with the fallen natures we have. It’s a place we must continue to go to, over and over again, asking God for His grace to help us be more humble. I’ve personally found the Litany of Humility to be a very freeing prayer for myself.

There’s a joke that often goes around about praying for humility, and that’s that you’d better be prepared to be humiliated if you pray for humility. Maybe you have prayed for humility before and found that to be the case. I know this is something I used to be afraid of myself. But I haven’t found that to be the case at all for myself. God doesn’t want to humiliate us. He wants us to be humble because we will find freedom in humility, freedom from the insufferable prison of our own egos. But He isn’t sadistic. He isn’t out to put us in the most humiliating situations just because we pray for the virtue of humility. If that’s something you worry about with praying for humility, just know that God isn’t out to get you.

He’s out to love you.

And humility allows us to receive His love.

A man playing the organ


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