Humility is the defining characteristic of unpretentious or humble people; those who do not behave as if they were more important than others. The terms humility and modesty are often contrasted in various ways, but they are also often treated as interchangeable synonyms.
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- Humilitas homines sanctis angelis similes facit, et superbia ex angelis demones facit.
- I know how great is the effort needed to convince the proud of the power and excellence of humility, an excellence which makes it soar above the summits of this world, which sway in their temporal instability, overtopping them all with an eminence not arrogated by human pride, but granted by divine grace.
- Augustine of Hippo, The City of God (426), H. Bettenson, trans. (1972), p. 5
- Lowliness is the base of every virtue,
And he who goes the lowest builds the safest.
- Philip James Bailey, Festus (1813), scene Home.
- “Reformation theology” … pretends to prefer to Pharasaic ostentation a modest invisibility, which in practice means conformity to the world. When that happens, the hallmark of the Church becomes justitia civilis instead of extraordinary visibility. The very failure of the light to shine becomes the touchstone of our Christianity.
- Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Nachfolge (1937), translated as The Cost of Discipleship (1959), p. 118.
- You should only boast about having nothing to boast about!
- Fausto Cercignani in: Brian Morris, Simply Transcribed. Quotations from Writings by Fausto Cercignani, 2014, quote 55.
- The whole secret of the practical success of Christendom lies in the Christian humility, however imperfectly fulfilled. For with the removal of all question of merit or payment, the soul is suddenly released for incredible voyages.
- To acknowledge one's incapacity is the way to be soon prepared to teach others; for from the moment that a man is no longer full of himself, nor puffed up with empty pride, whatever good he learns in the morning he practices before night.
- Humility is the solid foundation of all virtues.
- How happy in his low degree,
How rich in humble poverty, is he,
Who leads a quiet country life;
Discharged of business, void of strife
- John Dryden, Imitation of Horace (1685), 2nd Epode
- At very best, a person wrapped up in himself makes a small package.
- Harry Emerson Fosdick, On Being a Real Person (1943); a similar statement has become attributed to Benjamin Franklin, but apparently only in recent decades: "A man wrapped up in himself makes a very small bundle." This seems to have been first attributed to Franklin in The New Age Magazine Vol. 66 (1958), and the earliest appearance of it yet located is in Coronet magazine, Vol. 34 (1953), p. 27, where it was attributed to a Louise Stein.
- We must not be wise and prudent according to the flesh, but, instead, we must be simple, humble and pure.
- Francis of Assisi, “Later Admonition and Exhortation to the Brothers and Sisters of Penance,” Francis of Assisi: Early Documents, Volume 1, p. 48
- Dos veces es eminente el que encierra todas las perfecciones en sí, y ninguna en su estimación.
- Twice eminent is that who encloses all the perfections into himself, and none into his estimate.
- Baltasar Gracián, Oráculo Manual y Arte de Prudencia, § 123
- Twice eminent is that who encloses all the perfections into himself, and none into his estimate.
- Catch him at the moment when he is really poor in spirit and smuggle into his mind the gratifying reflection, "By jove! I'm being humble", and almost immediately pride — pride at his own humility — will appear.
- Prayer must be humble: God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Here St. James tells us that God does not listen to the prayers of the proud, but resists them; while, on the other hand, he is always ready to hear the prayers of the humble.
- Alphonsus Maria de Liguori The Conditions Requisite for the Due Performance of Prayer in: The complete works of Saint Alphonsus de Liguori: the ascetical works, Volume 2. Redemptorist Fathers, 1926. p. 435.
- Be wise;
Soar not too high to fall; but stoop to rise.
- Philip Massinger, Duke of Milan (1623), Act I, scene ii.
- Knowledge is power. Information is power. The secreting or hoarding of knowledge or information may be an act of tyranny camouflaged as humility.
- Robin Morgan Words of Women Quotations for Success
- If “humility” means nothing more than the capacity to learn from criticism, then it has an undoubted value; but if “humility” means a willingness to submit to authority—to abandon or to modify what one is doing merely because it does not accord with the teachings of the Bible or the thoughts of Chairman Mao—then it is death to the spirit: the proper name for it, indeed, is “servility.”
- John Passmore, The Perfectibility of Man, p. 289.
- The most powerful weapon to conquer the devil is humility. For, as he does not know at all how to employ it, neither does he know how to defend himself from it.
- Vincent de Paul, as quoted in A Year with the Saints (1891) by Anonymous, p. 47.
- "שְׁמַע בְּנִי מוּסַר אָבִיךָ, וְאַל תִּטֹּשׁ תּוֹרַת אִמֶּךָ תִּתְנַהֵג תָּמִיד לְדַבֵּר כָּל דְּבָרֶיךָ בְּנַחַת, לְכָל אָדָם וּבְכָל עֵת, וּבַזֶּה תִּנָּצֵל מִן הַכַּעַס, שֶׁהִיא מִדָּה רָעָה לְהַחְטִיא בְּנֵי אָדָם... וְכַאֲשֶׁר תִּנָּצֵל מִן הַכַּעַס, תַּעֲלֶה עַל לִבְּךָ מִדַּת הָעֲנָוָה, שֶׁהִיא מִדָּה טוֹבָה מִכָּל מִדּוֹ טוֹבוֹת... לְמַעַן תַּצְלִיחַ בְּכָל דְּרָכֶיךָ, וְתִזְכֶּה לָעוֹלָם הַבָּא הַצָּפוּן לַצַּדִּיקִים."
- Hear, my son, the instruction of your father and don't forsake the teaching of your mother (Mishlei 1:8). Get into the habit of always speaking calmly to everyone. This will prevent you from anger, a serious character flaw which causes people to sin... Once you have distanced yourself from anger, the quality of humility will enter your heart. This radiant quality is the finest of all admirable traits... so that you will succeed in all your ways. Thus you will succeed and merit the World to Come which lies hidden away for the righteous.
- Iggeres HaRamban, translation by 
- I will not be modest. Humble, as much as you like, but not modest. Modesty is the virtue of the lukewarm.
- There is Humilitas quaedam in Vitio [humility taken to a fault]. If a Man does not take notice of that excellency and perfection that is in himself, how can he be thankful to God, who is the Author of all excellency and perfection?
- John Selden, Table Talk, 54.2
- ‘T is better to be lowly born,
And range with humble livers in content,
Than to be perked up in a glistering grief,
And wear a golden sorrow.
- Shakespeare, King Henry VIII, Act 2 scene 3.
- Often, to our comfort, shall we find
The sharded beetle in a safer hold
Than is the full-wing'd eagle.
- When we buy new clothes not to keep ourselves warm but to look "well-dressed" we are not providing for any important need. We would not be sacrificing anything significant if we were to continue to wear our old clothes, and give the money to famine relief. By doing so, we would be preventing another person from starving. It follows from what I have said earlier that we ought to give money away, rather than spend it on clothes which we do not need to keep us warm. To do so is not charitable, or generous. Nor is it the kind of act which philosophers and theologians have called "supererogatory" - an act which it would be good to do, but not wrong not to do. On the contrary, we ought to give the money away, and it is wrong not to do so.
- Peter Singer, Famine, Affluence, and Morality (1972).
- A humble knowledge of oneself is a surer road to God than a deep searching of the sciences.
- Thomas à Kempis, Imitation of Christ, Book 1, ch. 3
- Perfection is impossible without humility. Why should I strive for perfection, if I am already good enough?
- Leo Tolstoy, A Calendar of Wisdom, P. Sekirin, trans. (1997).
- It is often better for a person to recognize a sin than to do a good deed. Recognizing a sin makes a person humble. Doing a good deed often can feed a person’s pride.
- Leo Tolstoy, Path of Life, M. Cote, trans. (2002), p. 108
- A lever. We lower when we want to lift. In the same way, “He who humbleth himself shall be exalted.”
- Simone Weil, Gravity and Grace (1972), p. 84.
- The second condition is to take great pains to examine squarely and to contemplate attentively and slowly each school task in which we have failed, seeing how unpleasing and second-rate it is, without seeking any excuse or overlooking any mistake or any of our tutor’s corrections, trying to get down to the origin of each fault. There is a great temptation to do the opposite, to give a sideways glance at the corrected exercise if it is bad, and to hide it forthwith. Most of us do this nearly always. We have to withstand this temptation. Incidentally, moreover, nothing is more necessary for academic success, because, despite all our efforts, we work without making much progress when we refuse to give our attention to the faults we have made and our tutor’s corrections.
- Above all it is thus that we can acquire the virtue of humility, and that is a far more precious treasure than all academic progress. From this point of view it is perhaps even more useful to contemplate our stupidity than our sin. Consciousness of sin gives us the feeling that we are evil, and a kind of pride sometimes finds a place in it. When we force ourselves to fix the gaze, not only of our eyes but of our souls, upon a school exercise that we have failed through sheer stupidity, a sense of our mediocrity is borne in upon us with irresistible evidence. No knowledge is more to be desired. If we can arrive at knowing this truth with all our souls we shall be well established on the right foundation.
- Simone Weil, “Reflections on the Right Use of School Studies with a View to the Love of God” (1942)
- Every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.
- Luke 18:14.
- Those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.
Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers (1895)
- Quotes reported in Josiah Hotchkiss Gilbert's Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers (1895).
- Do you wish to be great? Then begin by being little. Do you desire to construct a vast and lofty fabric? Think first about the foundations of humility. The higher your structure is to be, the deeper must be its foundation. Modest humility is beauty's crown.
- Augustine of Hippo, p. 330.
- "O pity, great Father of light," then I cried,
" Thy creature who fain would not wander from Thee!
Lo, humbled in dust, I relinquish my pride;
From doubt and from darkness Thou only canst free."
- James Beattie, p. 332.
- Humility is, of all graces, the chiefest when it does not know itself to be a grace at all.
- St. Bernard, p. 329.
- Make me like a little child,
Simple, teachable, and mild;
Seeing only in Thy light;
Walking only in Thy might!
- John Berridge, p. 334.
- "He that humbleth himself shall be exalted." This great law of the kingdom of God is, in the teaching of Christ, inscribed over its entrance-gate.
- Thomas Browne, p. 330.
- Now as they were going along and talking, they espied a boy feeding his father's sheep. The boy was in very mean clothes, but of a fresh and well favored countenance; and as he sat by himself he sang:
"He that is down, needs fear no fall;
He that is low, no pride;
He that is humble ever shall
Have God to be his guide."
Then said Mr. Great Heart, "Do you hear him? I will dare to say this boy lives a merrier life, and wears more of that herb called heart's-ease in his bosom than he that is clad in silk and velvet."
- John Bunyan, p. 333.
- Then Christian began to go forward; but Discretion, Piety, Charity, and Prudence would accompany him down to the foot of the hill. Then said Christian, "As it was difficult coming up, so, so far as I can see, it is dangerous going down." " Yes," said Prudence, "so it is; for it is a hard matter for a man to go down into the valley of Humiliation, as thou art now, and to catch no slip by the way;" " therefore," said they, " we are come out to accompany thee down the hill." So he began to go down, but very warily; yet he caught a slip or two.
- John Bunyan, p. 334.
- I want to feel my own nothingness, I want to give myself up in absolute resignation to God, to lie prostrate and passive at His feet, with no other disposition in my heart than that of merging my will into His will, and no other language in my mouth than that of prayer for the perfecting of His strength in my weakness. I desire from the abyss of my own nothingness and vileness to cry unto God that He might cause me to do as I ought, and to be as I ought.
- Thomas Chalmers, p. 331.
- Humility is the root, mother, nurse, foundation, and bond of all virtue.
- Chrysostom, p. 329.
- Abraham teaches us the right way of conversing with God: "And Abraham fell on his face, and God talked with him." When we plead with Him, our faces should be in the dust.
- Richard Cecil, p. 332.
- Confess your nothingness and ill-desert before God. Distrust yourself. Rely only upon God. Renounce all glory except from Him. Yield yourself heartily to His will and service. Avoid an aspiring, ambitious, ostentatious, assuming, arrogant, scornful, stubborn, willful, levelling, self-justifying behavior; and strive for more and more of the humble spirit that Christ manifested while He was here upon earth.
- Jonathan Edwards, p. 331.
- Of all trees, I observe God hath chosen the vine, a low plant that creeps upon the helpful wall; of all beasts, the soft and patient lamb; of all fowls, the mild and guileless dove. Christ is the rose of the field, and the lily of the valley. When God appeared to Moses, it was not in the lofty cedar nor the sturdy oak nor the spreading palm; but in a bush, a humble, slender, abject shrub; as if He would, by these elections, check the conceited arrogance of man.
- Owen Feltham, p. 333.
- I pray often to God that He would keep you in the hollow of His hand. The most essential point is lowliness. It is profitable for all things, for it produces a teachable spirit which makes every thing easy.
- François Fénelon, p. 333.
- Let me follow in Thy footsteps, O Jesus! I would imitate Thee, but cannot without the aid of Thy grace! O humble and lowly Saviour, grant me the knowledge of the true Christian, and that I may willingly despise myself; let me learn the lesson so incomprehensible to the mind of man, that I must die to myself by an abandonment that shall produce true humility.
- François Fénelon, p. 334.
- They that know God will be humble,
They that know themselves cannot be proud.
- John Flavel, p. 329.
- The more we learn what humility is, the less we discover in ourselves.
- La Combe, p. 329.
- Humility is the grace which lies prostrate at God's footstool, self-abasing and self-disparaging, amazed at God's mercy, and abhorring its own vileness.
- James Hamilton, p. 330.
- Humility, what is it? It is a gracious gift of the Holy Ghost. It is the same disposition which the Psalmist called a " broken heart," and that consciousness of need which Jesus had in view when He said, "Blessed are the poor in spirit." So far as it has respect to God, it is that docility which is willing to learn what God teaches; that conscious penury, which is willing to accept whatever God proffers; that submission which is willing to do what God desires, and to endure whatever God deems needful.
- James Hamilton, p. 331.
- The reason why the publican returned from the Temple justified was that he had got that lowly and self-emptied mind to which the grace of God is welcome. It was not his standing afar off merely, nor his dejected eyes, nor his smiting on his breast, but his despair of himself and his hope in God's mercy — "God be merciful to me a sinner." And you will be justified, too, when, losing all confidence in the flesh, you learn to rejoice in Jesus Christ.
- James Hamilton, p. 335.
- The doctrines of grace humble man without degrading him and exalt him without inflating him.
- Charles Hodge, p. 334.
- Teach me. Lord, my true condition;
Bring me childlike to Thy knee;
Stripped of every low ambition,
Willing to be led by Thee.
- Henry Francis Lyte, p. 329.
- Be sure that your soul is never so intensely alive as when in the deepest abnegation it waits hushed before God.
- Alexander Maclaren, p. 329.
- The wisely cultivated man, conscious how insignificant a drop he is in the vast stream of life, learns his limitation, and accepts events with modesty and equanimity.
- Dr. Maudsley, p. 333.
- True humility is a Christian grace and one of the fruits of the Spirit, originating in a deep consciousness of sin past and present, and leading us to discover our nothingness in the view of God, our insufficiency for any thing that is good, and prompting us, as we feel our infirmities, to strive after higher and yet higher attainments.
- James McCosh, p. 329.
- They who know most of God on earth or heaven know that they know little after all; but they know that they may know more and more of Him throughout eternal ages.
- Humility, that low, sweet root,
From which all heavenly virtues shoot.
- Thomas Moore, p. 328.
- And so among the ruins of our pride, we grow to be loving children of the Most High.
- William Mountford, p. 331.
- O it is a happy thing to feel ourselves helpless and naught, for then the presence of God is felt to wrap us about so lovingly! Everlasting, infinite, almighty, — these are the words that strengthen us with speaking them.
- William Mountford, p. 332.
- I do not know what I may appear to the world; but to myself I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the seashore, and diverting myself by now and then finding a smooth pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, while the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me.
- Sir Isaac Newton, p. 332.
- The most of my sufferings and sorrows were occasioned by my own unwillingness to be nothing, which I am, and by struggling to be something.
- Edward Payson, p. 335.
- Humility is that simple, inner life of real greatness, which is indifferent to magnificence, and, surrounded by it all, lives far away in the distant country of a Father's home, with the cross borne silently and self-sacrificingly in the heart of hearts.
- Frederick William Robertson, p. 330.
- My God, I ask not of Thee the leaves of external consequence; I will be content to continue simple, lowly, and plain, if Thou wilt only give me grace to serve Thee and my neighbor. Outward pomp withers like a flower, but inward worth lasts even after death.
- Christian Scriver, p. 334.
- Not as men of science, not as critics, not as philosophers, but as little children, shall we enter into the kingdom of heaven.
- John Campbell Shairp, p. 332.
- When thinking of God, when beholding His glorious perfections, when rejoicing in the perfection of His government, and in the excellence of His designs, the humble heart adopts the language of Job: " I have heard of Thee by the hearing of the ear; but now mine eye seeth Thee: wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes."
- Gardiner Spring, p. 332.
- Heaven's gates are not so highly arched as king's palaces; they that enter there must go upon their knees.
- Daniel Webster, p. 330.
Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922)
- Quotes reported in Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 380-81.
- He saw a cottage with a double coach-house,
A cottage of gentility!
And the Devil did grin, for his darling sin
Is pride that apes humility.
- Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Devil's Walk (original title, Devil's Thoughts); written jointly by Coleridge and Southey.
- I am well aware that I am the 'umblest person going * * * let the other be where he may.
- 'Umble we are, 'umble we have been, 'umble we shall ever be.
- Parvum parva decent.
- Humble things become the humble.
- Horace, Epistles, I, 7, 44.
- God hath sworn to lift on high
Who sinks himself by true humility.
- John Keble, Miscellaneous Poems, At Hooker's Tomb.
- O be very sure
That no man will learn anything at all,
Unless he first will learn humility.
- Owen Meredith (Lord Lytton), Vanini, line 327.
- One may be humble out of pride.
- Michel de Montaigne, Of Presumption, Book II, Chapter XVII.
- Fairest and best adorned is she
Whose clothing is humility.
- James Montgomery, Humility.
- Nearest the throne itself must be
The footstool of humility.
- James Montgomery, Humility.
- Humility, that low, sweet root,
From which all heavenly virtues shoot.
- Thomas Moore, Loves of the Angels, Third Angel's Story, Stanza 11.
- I was not born for Courts or great affairs;
I pay my debts, believe, and say my pray'rs.
- Alexander Pope, Prologue to Satires, line 268.
- Humility is a virtue all preach, none practise, and yet every body is content to hear.
- John Selden, Table Talk: Being the Discourses (1786)
- Humility is to make a right estimate of one's self. It is no humility for a man to think less of himself than he ought, though it might rather puzzle him to do that.
- Charles Spurgeon, Gleanings Among the Sheaves, Humility.
- The higher a man is in grace, the lower he will be in his own esteem.
- Charles Spurgeon, Gleanings Among the Sheaves, The Right Estimate.
- Da locum melioribus.
- Give place to your betters.
- Terence, Phormio, III. 2. 37.