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Wednesday, June 5, 2024
Chapter 7

The seventh step of humility is that we not only admit with our tongues but are also convinced in our hearts that we are inferior to all and of less value, humbling ourselves and saying with the prophet: "I am truly a worm, not even human, scorned and despised by all (Ps 22:7)." "I was exalted, then I was humbled and overwhelmed with confusion (Ps 88:16)." And again, "It is a blessing that you have humbled me so that I can learn your commandments (Ps 119:71,73)."

At one stage of life, the temptation is to think that no human being alive could ever really believe themselves to be "inferior to all and of less value." At a later stage in life you begin to understand that secretly everybody thinks exactly that and that's why we deny it with such angst to ourselves and such unfairness to others. We set out systematically to hide the truth of it by clutching at money and degrees and positions and power and exhaust ourselves in the attempt to look better than we fear we really are.

The only difference between that stage of life and this degree of humility is that in the seventh degree of humility Benedict wants us to realize that accepting our essential smallness and embracing it frees us from the need to lie, even to ourselves, about our frailties. More than that, it liberates us to respect, revere and deal gently with others who have been unfortunate enough to have their own smallnesses come obscenely to light.

Aware of our own meager virtues, conscious of our own massive failures despite all our great efforts, all our fine desires, we have in this degree of humility, this acceptance of ourselves, the chance to understand the failures of others. We have here the opportunity to become kind.