Many years ago we had staying with us a clergyman to whom I listened with close attention. One day he spoke of someone as “having the rare grace of humility.” I think he must have meant that this person had the real thing that we mean by humility and not the counterfeit. Real humility is always spontaneous and attractive. False humility is easy to detect and is always unattractive.
It is false humility when we pretend we do not have a capacity that we do have. If you can sing, or write, or get through a lot of business in a day, humility does not require you to pretend that you can do none of these things; it only requires you to remember that you did not create these things yourself, and that therefore gratitude fits better than pride.
It is false humility when you mistake an inferiority complex for humility, for many an inferiority complex is only pride backfiring. Most people with an inferiority complex are as proud as Lucifer underneath and love attention and acclaim. You can never have real humility while you are preoccupied with yourself, and an inferiority complex is the most self-centered state of mind in the world.
It is false humility, when you know your religious experience is not sufficient, to play down what genuine religious experience you have had. More people than we often think have had true dealings with God and possess a very real working faith. Let us not claim more than we have, but let us not belittle what we do have. We do not grow in faith by pulling up our faith by the roots every few days to see how it is getting along. Sabatier says that “excellent men religiously betray their own convictions to avoid asserting themselves.”
Some religious assertion is pride; but much refusal to assert our beliefs is ...1
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