Introductory Note:

Humility is a key virtue in our Christian spiritual formation. The idea of being humble is often misunderstood today. It is seen as weakness when actually it is just the opposite. Christian humility is strength. The apostle Paul says, I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” The key to humility is knowing that our strength comes from Christ. As John of the Cross says in this excerpt of his writings, spiritual pride is remedied by humility. I have to admit that at various points in my life I have had some spiritual pride. And I have also had the opposite, where I thought I am no good and unworthy. Humility remedies both of these infirmities. Pride is erased because it is God who has gifted me and he receives all the glory. Unworthiness is obliterated by basking in God’s love, receiving his strength and living boldly within the Kingdom of God.

—Charles Ayars

Excerpt from Devotional Classics

Secret Pride

Beginners in the spiritual life are apt to become very diligent in their exercises. The great danger for them will be to become satisfied with their religious works and with themselves. It is easy for them to develop a kind of secret pride, which is the first of the seven capital sins. 

Such persons become too spiritual. They like to speak of spiritual things” all the time. They become content with their growth. They would prefer to teach rather than to be taught. They condemn others who are not as spiritual as they are. They are like the Pharisee who boasted in himself and despised the publican who was not as spiritual as he. 

The devil will often inflame their fervor so that their pride will grow even greater. The devil knows that all of their works and virtues will become valueless and, if unchecked, will become vices. For they begin to do these spiritual exercises to be esteemed by others. They want others to realize how spiritual they are. They will also begin to fear confession to another for it would ruin their image. So they soften their sins when they make confession in order to make them appear less imperfect. 

They will beg God to take away their imperfections, but they do this only because they want to find inner peace and not for God’s sake. They do not realize that if God were to take away their imperfections from them, they would probably become prouder and more presumptuous still. 

But those who are at this time moving in God’s way will counter this pride with humility. They will learn to think very little of themselves and their religious works. Instead, they will focus on how great and how deserving God is and how little it is that they can do for him. The Spirit of God dwells in such persons, urging them to keep their treasures secretly within themselves.

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