Elisha bade the poor widow “borrow vessels, even empty vessels not a few, and pour oil into all those vessels;” and so in order to receive God’s Grace in our hearts, they must be as empty vessels—not filled with self-esteem. The swallow with its sharp cry and keen glance has the power of frightening away birds of prey, and for that reason the dove prefers it to all other birds, and lives surely beside it;—even so humility drives Satan away, and cherishes the gifts and graces of the Holy Spirit within us, and for that reason all the Saints—and especially the King of Saints and His Blessed Mother—have always esteemed the grace of humility above all other virtues. – St. Francis de Sales, Introduction to the Devout Life


In the simplest sense, humility is a virtue whereby a person is keenly aware of his shortcomings and deficiencies, has a balanced view of himself and his position in the world, and submits himself to God and other people. It is not necessary for us to practice the virtue of humility by thinking of ourselves as worthless or less important than other people. Humility is being realistic about ourselves. Humility allows us to identify both our God-given gifts failings and their abundance in us in relation to others.

Humility is a component of the virtue of temperance. Temperance rightly orders our desires and expressions. Humility is a virtue that stands against the sin of pride. It is a foundational element of the spiritual life. We cannot aspire to God until we have properly formed our opinion of our place in the universe. In a sense, humility allows us to overcome ourselves in order to seek God.

Jesus spoke of the virtue of humility in His Sermon on the Mount: "Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the land… Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you (falsely) because of me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in Heaven. Thus they persecuted the prophets who were before you. “(Matthew 5:5,11-12).

Humility does not entail welcoming humiliations, though they can be a path to building the virtue of humility, by showing us the errors in our pride. We can in some cases take the virtue of humility too far and in doing so, degrade our worth and even inspire the sin of pride in others. Humility should be practiced in deference to the virtue of temperance, not allowing ourselves to lower ourselves too much, but also not allowing pride to grow in us.