Kennedy's 'C. S. Lewis Overflow'
C. S. Lewis on humility
Jonal entry 1008 | June 27 2007
Humility is the flip side of pride, the greatest virtue over against the deadliest sin. It is, Lewis teaches, the heart of the Christian life and the gateway to any spiritual growth.
If you remember Charles Dickens' David Copperfield, the very word "humble" probably reminds you of Uriah Heep, the quintessential example of someone who's proud--inordinately proud--of his humility. C.S. Lewis warns that the greatest danger and the great irony in pursuing humility is, in fact, developing pride in its attainment or even its pursuit.
Lewis writes in Mere Christianity that a humble person "will not be a sort of greasy, smarmy person, who is always telling you that, of course, he is nobody." Here he seems to be describing Uriah Heep himself. Instead, Lewis continues, the humble person will be an easy-going "cheerful, intelligent chap" more interested in others than himself. Anyone might admire such an unassuming character, though a proud person would envy his likeability and look for character traits in himself that excell the humble one's. But the humble chap doesn't think about his humility, "he will not be thinking about himself at all," Lewis concludes.
God himself, Lewis says, models perfect humility. He never cares about whether His creatures protect his "dignity" or show the respect that's His, having humbled himself by taking on the vulnerability of a fetus in a woman's womb, being delivered as a baby in a cattle shed, living in manhood as a despised itinerent preacher, and dying in public like a criminal executed by the authorities, on a hated cross. Likewise, those wanting to follow Him must be humble enough to realize that they are sinners, not worthy by any attainment they can hope to reach on their own strength, never free from the call to renewed repentance and confession, and totally dependent on His freely provided grace.
And as evidence that this Gospel truth has been understood, followers of Christ never forget their personal unworthiness and always consider the efforts of those around them more deserving of God's acceptance than their own. This is the sum total of "judge not": how can anyone judge another's character or behavior if he truly knows his own character is sin itself? How can he boast about anything of his own, knowing it means nothing apart from the purifying fire of Christ's love? (Ephesians 2:8-10). In fact, judging another's "walk" is proof that the one doing the judging just doesn't "get" the Gospel.
"If anyone would like to acquire humility," Lewis writes "I can, I think, tell him the first step. The first step is to realise that one is proud. And a biggish step, too. At least, nothing whatever can be done before it. If you think you are not conceited, it means you are very conceited indeed."
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