Humility in Our Estimate of Ourselves

There is no better test of humility than the opinion we form about others as compared with ourselves. If we had to make a list of the virtuous, in what position should we place ourselves? A man who is truly humble will place himself not only last, but least, with a great interval between himself and the rest of mankind. Saint Dominic used to place himself in spirit beneath the feet of the very demons, as being far worse than them. Saint Paul declared himself the very worst of sinners. Can I honestly speak of myself thus? Do I regard myself as the worst of all men in the sight of God?

What should be the ground of this humility? We must not attempt impossibilities. I ought not to think myself worst of all unless I really am so. It may be that I cannot truthfully say that I am in the habit of committing mortal sins. How, then, can I be worse than the notorious sinner? Yet when I think of all the graces God has given me, I must confess that if He had given them to those who sin most deeply, they would be far better than I am. My only superiority is in greater graces. Humble yourself at the thought of all the graces you have received, and of your frequent failures to co-operate with them.

Even if we had never sinned, this would not free us from the obligation of putting ourselves below all and beneath all. Our exemption would be no credit to ourselves. It would simply be a fresh gift of God, which ought to make us more vividly conscious of our vileness and nothingness in His sight. We must always be as nothing in His sight, but sin makes us worse than nothing. It makes us a blot upon creation, inferior to the dumb creatures that have never sinned.

- text from Humility, Thirty Short Meditations by Father Richard Frederick Clarke, SJ