Selfishness and Humility in the Spiritual Life

Father Faber states: “There is always a certain sort of selfishness in the spiritual life. The order of charity rules it so. Our first consideration is the glory of God in our own souls. . . . Hence, even while speaking of kindness, it is not out of place for us to consider the work which it does for ourselves.”

“Foremost among the common ways in which kind actions benefit ourselves may be mentioned the help they give us in getting clear of selfishness. The tendency of nature to love itself has more the character of a habit than a law. Opposite conduct always tends to weaken it, which would hardly be the case if it were a law. Kindness, moreover, partly from the pleasure, which accompanies it, partly from the blessing it draws down upon itself, and partly from its similitude to God, tends very rapidly to set into a well-formed habit. Selfishness is in no slight degree a point of view from which we regard things. Kindness alters our view by altering our point of view. Now, does anything tease us more than our selfishness? Does anything more effectually retard our spiritual growth? . . . On the whole, selfishness must be put down, or our progress will cease.”

“Kindness seems to know of some secret fountain of joy deep in the soul which it can touch without revealing its locality, and cause to send its waters upwards and overflow the heart. Inward happiness almost always follows a kind action; and who has not long since experienced in himself that inward happiness is the atmosphere in which great things are done for God? . . . Much grace goes along with kindness.”

“Men grow kinder as they grow older. . . . As kindness in the natural world implies age, in the spiritual world it implies grace. It does not belong to the fervour of beginnings, but to the solidity of progress. Indeed, Christian kindness implies so much grace that it almost assures the exercise of humility. A proud man is seldom a kind man. Humility makes us kind, and kindness makes us humble.”

“It would be foolish to say that humility is an easy virtue. The very lowest degree of it is a difficult height to climb. But this much must be said for kindness, that it is the easiest road to humility, and infallible as well as easy; and is not humility just what we want, just what we are this moment coveting, just what will break down barriers, and give us free course on our way to God?”

Quotations from Frederick William Faber, Kindness (London: R. & T. Washbourne, 1901).

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