Humility is a big deal for St. Benedict. Chapter seven of his rule focuses on humility and it is one of longest (perhaps the longest) chapters in the entire work. He compares the path to humility as a ladder to the heavens. The first step on this ladder is fear of God which, for him, was a very literal fear, noting the reality of burning in hell!
The second step is to not desire to do your own will but to do the will of God. And on and on it goes, Benedict lists over ten different steps which include things such as confession and obeying authorities. The one that stuck out to me most was:
The eleventh degree of humility is, that, when a monk speaketh, he speak gently and without laughter, humbly and with gravity, with few and sensible words, and that he be not loud of voice, as it is written: “The wise man is known by the fewness of his words.”
St. Benedict (2011-04-30). The Rule of St. Benedict (Kindle Locations 354-355). PlanetMonk Books. Kindle Edition.
I am challenged by this because my inclination is to defend and justify myself with my words. This is not limited to what I say, but by later defending what I said or seeking affirming words from others to know they liked what I said. In other words, rather than just speaking with confidence and allowing my words to justify themselves, I speak with uncertainty and look for the approval of others.
My “take-away” from this chapter in Benedict is to put a lot of prayer and thought into what I say. From this I ought to at times choose to speak and at other times choose to be silent. When I do choose to speak , I ought to do so with both confidence and humility. The confidence comes from knowing my words are not just diarrhea of the mouth, as my dad used to say, but well thought out and prayed through words. The humility comes from being open to constructive criticism and disagreement without pandering for affirmation.
What steps must you take to move up the ladder of humility?