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Kempis on: Having a Humble Opinion of Self

Be Like Jesus

Matthew 25:12

"Whoever exalts himself will be humbled; but whoever humbles himself will be exalted."


Imagine a man, falsely accused of a crime, being dragged through the streets while he is being ridiculed, betrayed and humiliated, stripped of his clothing, tortured and hung on a cross until his death... all the while his mother watches in horror and sadness. I would call it the epitome of humility. When I pray the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary, it really has an effect on me. His passion is remarkable in the sense that we, as a society, fail to appreciate His Love and sacrifice.

The esteemed author C.S. Lewis wrote, "Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it is thinking of yourself less." In the case of our Lord, Jesus Christ, He sacrificed everything for us. He thought less of Himself for us. Yet, look how we respond.

In the post, "Kempis on: Imitating Christ & Despising All Vanities on Earth", I commented how I thought it was wise of Kempis to explain vainglory before humility... what to change from. In this post, he explains what we should change to.

Vanity is a a nowhere-fast proposition. Vanity is for the intellect, an earthly (as in non-heavenly) attitude, humility begets wisdom. Pride leads to self destruction when one is so vain they will not deny themselves. Pride can also lead to false gospels. Per St. Augustine, "If you believe what you like in the gospels, and reject what you don't like, it is not the gospel you believe, but yourself." (my emphasis)

In addition, St. Augustine asserts that "humility is not only a significant virtue; it is the indispensable foundation of human greatness."


A humble rustic who serves God is better than a proud intellectual who neglects his soul to study the course of the stars. He who knows himself well becomes mean in his own eyes and is not happy when praised by men. If I knew all things in the world and had not charity, what would it profit me before God Who will judge me by my deeds?
Intellectuals like to appear learned and to be called wise. Yet there are many things the knowledge of which does little or no good to the soul, and he who concerns himself about other things than those which lead to salvation is very unwise.
Many words do not satisfy the soul; but a good life eases the mind and a clean conscience inspires great trust in God. The more you know and the better you understand, the more severely will you be judged, unless your life is also the more holy. If you think you know many things and understand them well enough, realize at the same time that there is much you do not know. (my emphasis)
If you wish to learn and appreciate something worth while, then love to be unknown and considered as nothing.

(Consider that there are numerous works suspected written by Kempis, but not confirmed, because he wrote anonymously.)

To think of oneself as nothing, and always to think well and highly of others is the best and most perfect wisdom.
Therefore, if you see another sin openly or commit a serious crime, do not consider yourself better, for you do not know how long you can remain in good estate. All men are frail, but you must admit that none is more frail than yourself. (my emphasis)

Kempis says the greatest wisdom is to focus on the kingdom of heaven. It certainly makes sense as we know that King Solomon's first request, when asked by God, was wisdom. This pleased our Lord very much. (Unfortunately his, Solomon's, wisdom was short term, as, in his older age, built idols for his many wives. God noticed.)

Humility has had the profound affect I hoped it would for me. My wee little brain may not have intellect I once desired, but my decisions are all centered around my relationship with Jesus. Everything I do, I think of Jesus first and how it will affect the outcome of my relationship with Him. The only acceptance I look for is from Jesus Christ.

I am frail. I'm not speaking about physicality but of spirituality. If I'm not careful, I can sin at a moment's notice. And I do, but thank the good Lord for the sacrament of Confession. The feeling I get when the priest tells me, "I absolve you of your sins." is second only to receiving Jesus in the Holy Eucharist.

Every time, and I do mean, EVERY time I look in the mirror, make a decision or respond to someone... I ask myself if I'm doing it out of vanity or humility? Unfortunately, there are times the hidden pride raises its ugly head. Then it's off to Confession.

God Bless you

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Jul 17, 2023

Because I don't see a little heart for me to commend your writing, I do so here, grateful that you make the Imitation more accessible. Just as saving one's soul is the most important task we have in life, so too, imitating Christ is the only way we can do that.

Student of Kempis
Student of Kempis
Jul 17, 2023
Replying to

Father, that means so much, thank you! I write because I feel God calling me to do my small part. Compliments like yours compel me to continue. God Bless you Father.

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