humility.

Humility before the Creator obliges a man to behave meekly and unselfishly in all his transactions with his fellow-men, whether in matters of business or in any other relation of life. The truly humble man will mourn for all the mistakes made by other men, and not triumph or rejoice over them…

Among the aids to the cultivation of proper humility are the contemplation of the greatness of man’s obligation to the Creator and the thought of how small is his fulfilment of his duties, whether those commanded by his own Reason or by Scripture. Another is contemplation of the wonders of the universe and on the insignificance of man in comparison with even this earth, while, in comparison with the greatness of the Creator, the whole universe, even the highest sphere, is as nothing…

The admirable kind of pride is that, when the wise man prides himself on his wisdom, and the just man on his works, he should acknowledge, in these things, the great beneficence of the Creator, and should rejoice on account of these gifts. Such pride in these gifts will then induce him to increase them and make good use of them, and to be meek with all around him; and to rejoice with his fellows, and be eager for their glory, and to cover over their folly, and to speak in praise of them, to love them, and to rejoice over them, and to be careful of their honour. Then, also, his own good deeds will appear so small in his eyes, that he will be continually striving to increase them. He will be humble because of his sense of inability to attain to the realisation of his ideal in respect to them, and he will be full of gratitude to God for giving him these precious qualities. Such pride is helpful, and not harmful, to humility.

These thoughts from The Duties of the Heart are very freeing. As humans we only find and cause pain when we elevate ourselves above other people or above God, trying to come ahead of others by letting them come behind. The attempt to avoid pride can hurt us in a different way if it makes us always wary of enjoying the strength, obedience, and beauty that God has given us to run in more and more. But when we have the accurate humility of valuing others and of knowing how small we are before God, how huge a gift we’ve been given by Him, as Rabbi Bachye wrote, there is absolute freedom to have joy in our ability to choose what is right and to live more and more in it. We weren’t created to be selfish, and we weren’t created to have nothing: the pattern of mutual blessing is such a good part of what relationships are created to be.

There are times in the Bible where God showed humility to humans because of His kindness. He lifts us out of the dust into His love; He freely forgives us when we choose to ignore Him, as soon as we look back to Him; He attached His name to a nation, even went into exile with His people as a constant sanctuary for them, and offered His kindness to other nations if they would be humble. But when a human is humble in front of God, we are only giving Him what He deserves. A humble person makes a clear statement to Him and to everyone around us that a creator has made our world, and our hearts, and that He deserves them back from our hands. This is the reality. However we feel about it at the time, the best of life is found in submitting to this in the way that He desires and has commanded; knowing that we still have a lot to see and to learn about goodness, listening to hear more with a guarded but open heart.

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