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 | By Veronica Szczygiel, Ph.D.

Staying on the path to holiness

The virtue of humility

In Aesop’s fable, the peacock desperately wanted to be more beautiful than all the other birds. The Roman goddess Juno granted him a long, dazzling train of blue and green feathers. But when the peacock saw the eagle soaring and tried to fly alongside him, he realized that his new adornments made him too heavy; he couldn’t lift off from the ground.

The peacock’s predicament is a cautionary tale for us as we contemplate the virtue of humility. Bible verses abound extolling this virtue:

“My child, conduct your affairs with humility … humble yourself the more, the greater you are, and you will find favor with God.” (Sir 3:17-18)

“God opposed the proud but bestows favor on the humble.” (1 Pt 5:5)

“Put on then, as God’s chosen ones … heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.” (Col 3:12)

Being humble means forsaking our egos by putting others before us. It means putting God’s will for our lives above our own.

And yet, we live in a world where humility can be hard to sustain. It’s easy to stroke our egos when we feel pressured to sell ourselves and our merits searching for jobs in an oversaturated pool of applicants, for example. Social media likewise encourages us to curate the most appealing and perfect versions of ourselves, not our real selves.

But when we proverbially have our noses in the air, we are more prone to trip and fall. When we step off our high horse, we shed the burden of keeping up appearances and acting like we have it all. We become more approachable, trustworthy and genuine. Colleagues, friends and family will more readily collaborate with us and confide in us. It is better to walk alongside someone than in front of them.

Throughout the Gospels, Jesus was the model of humility, and spoke of it often: “Everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Lk 14:11) An attitude of humility reminds us that we are not alone in life’s struggles. We are not better than anyone else because in God’s eyes, we are all his treasured children. All he asks of us is “to do justice and to love goodness, and to walk humbly with [our] God.” (Mi 6:8) Let’s do just that – without the burden of fancy tail feathers weighing us down.

Theological Virtues





Cardinal Virtues





Veronica Szczygiel, Ph.D., is the director of online learning at Fordham University’s Graduate School of Education.

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