Humility is the true cure for many a needless heartache.--A. Montague

It is easy to look down on others; to look down on ourselves is the

difficulty.--Lord Peterborough

Humility is a divine veil which covers our good deeds, and hides them

from our eyes.--St. John Climacas

Humility is the root, mother, nurse, foundation, and bond of all


Modest humility is beauty's crown; for the beautiful is a hidden thing,

and shrinks from its own power.--Schiller

We pass now from the strong and active virtue of self-help, to the

gentle and passive virtue of humility. In doing so, we quickly discover

that it requires a sound moral judgment to strike the right balance

between humility and self-reliance, and between meekness and

self-respect. The true man is both meek and self-reliant, humble and yet

by no means incapable of self-assertion. The really strong man is the

most thoroughly gentle of men, and the genuinely self-confident man is

the one who is most truly humble in his regard for the rights and

interests of others.

We have great need of this particular grace, and we ought to study its

relation to our life in general; for we should often have reason to be

ashamed of our most brilliant actions if the world could see the motives

from which they spring.

Humility has been well defined as "a simple and lowly estimation of

one's self." When practically thought of, it is mostly looked upon in a

negative light, and considered as the absence of, or opposite to, pride.

The general line of human thinking rather tends in the opposite

direction; but experience teaches that if we wish to be great, we shall

do well to begin by being little. If we desire to construct a strong

and noble character, we must not forget that the greatest lives have

always rested on foundations of humility. The higher your structure is

to be, the deeper must be its foundation.

Humility does not consist in a disposition falsely to underrate

ourselves, "but in being willing to waive our rights, and descend to a

lower place than is our due; in being ready to admit our liability to

error, and in freely owning our faults when conscious of having been

wrong; and, in short, in not being over-careful of our own dignity."

This virtue is the friend of intellect instead of its enemy, because

humility is both a moral instinct which seeks truth, and a moral

instrument for attaining truth. It leads us to base our knowledge on

truth; it also leads us truthfully to recognize the real measure of our


All really great men have been humble men in spirit and temper. Such

was Lincoln; such was Washington. Izaac Walton relates how George

Herbert helped a poor man whose horse had fallen under his load, laying

off his coat for that purpose, aiding him to unload, and then again to

load his cart. When his friends rebuked Herbert for this service he said

that "the thought of what he had done would prove music to him at

midnight, for he felt bound, so far as was in his power, to practice

that for which he prayed."

An instance often cited, but always beautiful, is that of Sir Philip

Sidney when mortally wounded at Zutphen as described by an old writer:

"Being thirsty with an excess of bleeding, he called for drink, which

was presently brought him; but as he was putting the bottle to his

mouth, he saw a poor soldier carried along, casting up his eyes at the

bottle; which Sir Philip perceiving, took it from his lips before he

drank, and delivered it to the poor man with these words: 'Thy necessity

is yet greater than mine.'" It mattered nothing to Sir Philip that he

was an officer and therefore of higher standing than the poor private.

He humbled himself and did a kindly action, and his noble deed will

never be forgotten.

Humility is not lack of courage; it is not the poverty of spirit which

shrinks from encounter. So far from destroying moral force, it protects

and strengthens it; it sternly represses the little vanities through

which strength of character evaporates and is lost. It is a noble trait

in peasant or in prince, in the cottage of the workman or in the mansion

of the millionaire.

Trajan, the Roman emperor, has set us an example of condescension and

affability. He was equal, indeed, to the greatest generals of antiquity;

but the sounding titles bestowed upon him by his admirers did not elate

him. All the oldest soldiers he knew by name. He conversed with them

with the greatest familiarity, and never retired to his tent before he

had visited the camps. He refused the statues which the flattery of

friends wished to erect to him, and he ridiculed the follies of an

enlightened nation that could pay adoration to cold inanimate pieces of

marble. His public entry into Rome gained him the hearts of the people;

for he appeared on foot, and showed himself an enemy to parade and

ostentatious equipage. His wish to listen to the just complaints of his

subjects, caused his royal abode to be called "the public palace"; and

his people learned to love him as greatly as they admired him.

True humility is not cowardly, cringing, or abjectly weak. It is

strength putting itself by the side of weakness through sympathy, and

not weakness abasing itself in the presence of that which it pretends is

greater than itself. The humble man is the man who feels his own

imperfection, and therefore does not condemn another. The truly humble

say very little about their humility, except in rare moments of emotion,

but live and labor in quietness for the promotion of the public good.

Sincerity and lowliness of spirit have been often commended, as when the

Pythian Apollo rebuked the pompous sacrifice offered at his shrine by a

rich Magnesian, and said that he preferred the simple cake and

frankincense of a pious Achaean which was offered in humbleness of


Do not allow yourselves to be deceived by false appearances, but lay to

heart the story of the farmer who went with his son into a wheatfield to

see if it was ready for the harvest. "See, father," exclaimed the boy,

"how straight these stems hold up their heads! They must be the best

ones. These that hang their heads down cannot be good for much." The

farmer plucked a stalk of each kind, and said, "See here, foolish child!

This stalk that stood so straight is light-headed, and almost good for

nothing; while this that hung its head so modestly is full of the most

beautiful grain."

"Humility is like the violet which grows low, and covers itself with its

own leaves, and yet of all flowers, yields the most delicious and

fragrant smell."

This virtue is not to be confounded with mean-spiritedness, or that

abject state of feeling which permits a man to surrender the rights of

his character to any one who chooses to infringe upon them. While it

thinks little of personal considerations, it thinks the more of

character and principle. It is really a powerful aid to progress. When

we realize how little we know, we shall earnestly strive to know more;

when we feel how imperfect is our character, we shall make earnest

efforts after improvement.


Phillips Brooks may certainly be ranked among the greatest men of the

present generation. He was physically and mentally strong; possessed of

a great personality that compelled him to self-assertion; and was

self-reliant in a degree attained by but few men of his time. He

followed his own convictions, in the face of much opposition, bravely

and unflinchingly. But with all his greatness and self-confidence, he

was gentle, tolerant, sympathetic, and thoroughly appreciative of the

rights of others. He made himself felt everywhere; yet he never indulged

in controversy, and never struck back when criticised. He used his

strength for the good of the weak; he asserted himself in a meek and

humble spirit.

The story of his caring for the children of a poor woman, in the slums

of Boston while she went out for needed recreation, shows that in the

greatness of his manhood he could stoop to the lowliest tasks; while

his unbounded love for children, kept him bright and young down to the

very close of his honored career.

To understand this side of his character, we recommend you to read his

"Letters to Children," of which the following, written to his niece, is

an excellent example:

"VENICE, August 13, 1882.

"DEAR GERTIE:--When the little children in Venice want to take a bath,

they just go down to the front steps of the house and jump off and swim

about in the street. Yesterday I saw a nurse standing on the front

steps, holding one end of a string, and the other end was tied to a

little fellow who was swimming up the street. When he went too far, the

nurse pulled in the string, and got her baby home again. Then I met

another youngster, swimming in the street, whose mother had tied him to

a post by the side of the door, so that when he tried to swim away to

see another boy who was tied to another door-post up the street, he

couldn't, and they had to sing out to one another over the water. Is

not this a queer city? You are always in danger of running over some of

the people and drowning them, for you go about in a boat instead of a

carriage, and use an oar instead of a horse. But it is ever so pretty,

and the people, especially the children, are very bright and gay and


"When you are sitting in your room at night, you hear some music under

your window, and look out, and there is a boat with a man with a fiddle,

and a woman with a voice, and they are serenading you. To be sure, they

want some money when they are done, for everybody begs here; but they do

it very prettily and are full of fun.

"Tell Susie I did not see the queen this time. She was out of town. But

ever so many noblemen and princes have sent to know how Toody was, and

how she looked, and I have sent them all her love.

"There must be lots of pleasant things to do at Andover, and I think you

must have had a beautiful summer there. Pretty soon now you will go back

to Boston. Do go into my house when you get there and see if the doll

and her baby are well and happy, but do not carry them off; and make the

music-box play a tune, and remember your affectionate uncle, PHILLIPS."

[Footnote: No really good life of Phillips Brooks has yet been

published; but consult his "Letters of Travel," and the numerous

articles in the best magazines.]

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