Lessons from the Fathers

On Humility

Extirpate two thoughts within thyself: do not consider thyself worthy of anything great, and do not think that any other man is much lower than thou in worthiness. Learn humility beforehand, which the Lord commanded in word and showed forth in deed. Hence, do not expect obedience from others, but be ready for obedience thyself. Saint Basil the Great.

If thou wilt endure an offensive word, then thou hast extinguished an ember. But if thou wilt think about it, then, like someone kindling a fire, thou wilt produce smoke, which is confusion. However, one can conveniently extinguish it too by silence, prayer and a bow from the heart. Venerable Dorotheus.

If thou, being offended by anything, dost sense that grief and wrath have seized thee, preserve silence, and say naught until unceasing prayer pacifies thine heart. Venerable Ammon of Nitria.

Even if thy soul should suffer somewhat from an offense, keep the sorrow within thyself. For it is said: "Within me my heart is troubled" (Psalm 142:4), that is, the passion has not come out, but has been humbled like a wave that has broken up on the shore. Calm thy raging heart. Let thy passions be ashamed at the presence of reason in thee, as playful children are ashamed before a man commanding respect. Saint Basil the Great.

Has someone offended thee? Guard thy breast with the sign of the Cross; remember what took place on the Cross, and all will be extinguished. Think not of offenses only, but recall also whatever good thou hast received from the one who has offended thee, and at once thou shalt grow meek. Bring to mind the fear of God, and quickly thou shalt grow more temperate and calm. Train thyself not to offend another during offenses themselves, and then, when offended, thou wilt not feel grief. Think to thyself that he who is offending thee is in a frenzy and not in his right mind, and then thou wilt not be vexed at the offense. Saint John Chrysostom.

Believe that dishonors and reproaches are medicines that heal the pride of thy soul, and pray for those who reproach thee, as for true physicians of thy soul, being assured that he who hates dishonor, hates humility, and he who avoids those who grieve him, flees from meekness. Venerable Dorotheus.

He, who grieves sorely in his heart when dishonored or offended by others, ought to know from this that he bears within himself the ancient serpent. If he will bear the offense in silence, or will answer the one offending him with deep humility, then he has thereby weakened and crushed this serpent. Venerable Simeon the New Theologian.


Missionary Leaflet #
Holy Protection Russian Orthodox Church
2049 Argyle Ave. Los Angeles, California 90068
Editor: Archimandrite Alexander (Mileant)

(Humbleness_ext.doc, 10-03-97)