Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.
Commenting on this, St Augustine wrote, “If you wish to reach high, then begin at the lowest level. If you are trying to construct some mighty tall edifice, begin with the foundation. This is humility. However great the mass of the building you may wish to design or erect, the taller the building is to be, the deeper you will have to dig the foundation…. So then, you see even a building is low before it is high, and the tower is raised only after humiliation.” In another place he wrote, “God accepts offerings only from the altar of humility.” When St Bernard of Clairvaux was asked what the four cardinal virtues were, he replied "humility, humility, humility, and humility."
This is just another way of describing a life that is, even to small degree, free of the stubborn clutches of the ego. Even when it disguises itself (and perhaps especially then), the ego is incapable of humility. It has been called “the original lie.” It is a false identity, and therefore every morsel of truth has the capacity to undermine it. It has to be constantly on the alert. Humility, on the other hand, is just the unadorned truth. It is not about belittling oneself or hiding in a corner. It is about letting the plain truth be seen. It is that “broken-open lowliness” that Rumi once mentioned.
This isn't easy, as everyone knows. We all take cover, to some extent. In the Confessions St Augustine described this tendency to hide: “In its abject shame the mind loves to lie concealed, yet it wishes that nothing should be concealed from it.” It is a perfect picture of the ego. Think of the whole world watching Big Brother. But when everything is out, he said, the situation will be exactly the reverse: “It will not be able to conceal itself from the truth, but the truth will remain hidden from it.”
My yoke is easy, my burden is light. Humility is much easier to carry than its opposite. The word humility comes from ‘humus’, meaning the ground. Think of the connotations of the word ‘ground’. It suggests rest, security, foundation, reality, source…. There is no security in the ego; to cling to it is to miss your footing.
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