Humility: The Foundational, Primary Virtue

by Jayson M. Brunelle

As practicing Christians, we have many virtues that we strive to attain or maintain.  Firstly, we have the most important set of virtues, or those that are referred to as the theological virtues due to their supernatural character and origin: faith, hope and charity – “and the greatest of these is charity.”  Secondly, Christian Tradition presents us with the four cardinal virtues which, although not supernatural in origin, can be divinized.  These are prudence, justice, fortitude and temperance.  Generally speaking, when discussing the Christian virtues, these are the ones that are most commonly referred to.  Yet, there exists a monumental, foundational and primary virtue that, at least in popular culture, has lamentably fallen by the wayside, due, in large part, to a great confusion regarding and misunderstanding of it’s true nature.  The virtue I am speaking of is none other than humility.

Humility truly is the foundational, primary virtue, due to the fact that one can possess no other genuine virtue without it.  Just as it’s opposing vice, pride, is at the root of all sin, so is humility the foundation upon which every other Christian or natural virtue rests.  One may possess great virtue, yet if humility is lacking, it is quite literally all for nought.

To better understand humility, let us first turn to it’s opposing vice of pride.  As was stated above, pride is at the root of all sin.  This is so due to the fact that whenever we choose to sin, we’re placing our own will over and above God’s will.  Thus the old adage, “Pride goeth before the fall.”  Pride is, by it’s very nature, a lie.  It consists in the greatest possible lie; namely, that the creature is greater than the Creator, and practically, this is manifested whenever we sin due to the fact that we place our own will and desires over and above God’s.

The obvious antidote to this is, of course, humility.  While pride is the greatest lie ever told, humility is the greatest truth in the sense that we admit the reality of the situation; namely, that God is God, and that we are His creatures.  We accept the absolute supremacy of God’s will over and above our wills, and therefore defer to God in all issues of faith and morality.  In fact, our response to the tremendous gift of God’s Self-revelation to us in the twinfold source of Divine Revelation (Scripture and Tradition) ought to be the humble obedience of faith.

Without humility, the “religious” personality will inevitably slip into self-righteousness, which, as we all know and can attest to, is the single greatest threat to the soul, not to mention one of the most effective turn-offs.  In short, if you want to drive people as far away as possible from religion and God, simply present these realities to others in a self-righteous manner.  There are few things uglier than self-righteousness.  Let us, then, hasten along the path of true, authentic humility, a path that is necessarily strewn with crosses; but do not fear.  Christ states that His “yoke is easy” and His “burden light.”  When you are imbued with authentic humility from the Lord, you cannot help but to draw souls closer and closer to Christ.  The light of the Way, the Truth, and the Life will shine through you unto all men.

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