Photo by Gregory Colbert

In his book The Science and Practice of Humility, Jason Gregory envisions this virtue as the evolutionary path into the future. It provides an alternative to the warrior mythology which is so pervasive in our times. He identifies Sri Rama Maharishi, Thich Nhat Hanh, and the Dalai Lama as three enlightened exemplars of this path. "Humility is the foundational cornerstone for realizing the receptive nature of the universe."

"Humility doesn't shout its characteristics. It is the quiet virtue. We must approach it in reverence. Because it is quiet, we must listen, look, and feel to discern its character," writes Dr. Everett L. Worthington Jr., professor of psychology at Virginia Commonwealth University. In Humility: The Quiet Virtue, he presents a thought-provoking and soul-stirring assessment of this disposition which has been modelled by Jesus, the Desert Fathers and Mothers, and a solemn parade of saints. Worthington accentuates the psychological sides of humility, such as such as nixing narcissism, eliminating entitlement, defeating pride, cultivating an accurate sense of self, and practicing other virtues.

In this collection of quotations on humility, we have tried to include material which honors both the complexity and the simplicity of this way of living.

  • "Life is a long lesson in humility."
    — James M. Barrie in Frederic Brussat's Twitter Collection
  • "Learning is the very essence of humility, learning from everything and from everybody. There is no hierarchy in learning."
    — Jiddu Krishnamurti in No Enemies Within by Dawna Markova
  • "The only wisdom we can hope to acquire is the wisdom of humility."
    — T.S. Eliot in Seven Sins for a Life Worth Living by Roger Housden
  • "Humility and human come from the Latin word, humus, dirt. A human being is someone . . . taken out of the dirt. A humble person is one who recognizes that and even rejoices in it!"
    — Richard Rohr in Radical Grace
  • "Humility matters. It is at the core of our experience of life in Christ. So central is this quality of being that it may be said that humility is for a Christian what enlightenment is for a Buddhist, realization is for a Hindu, sincerity is for a Confucian, righteousness is for a Jew, surrender is for a Muslim and annihilation is for a Sufi. Humility is what others see of our purity of heart."
    — Mary Margaret Funk in Humility Matters for Practicing the Spiritual Life
  • "Live 'without fuss,' as St Francois de Sales used to say; by which he meant, do quite simply the best you can as you feel you can. I have heard good Mother N_____ say that there was nothing she liked more than nuns who had the good common sense not to want to be perfect in those respects which they felt incapable of, and willingly recognized that they were nothing special. Humility and simplicity help us better than anything else to acquire the right frame of mind to grow towards perfection."
    — Abbe de Tourville in Freedom of Simplicity by Richard Foster
  • "Humility is a call to see our common-ness, our humanity, indeed, a clarion call to give up the selfishness at the root of all sin. Humility, understood in terms we have been considering, may well be the 'cure' for the alienation of our age."
    — Bonnie Thurston in Religious Vows, the Sermon on the Mount, and Christian Living
  • "Humility is the key to moral excellence. It is the noblest quality a person can possess. … It is the mother of all possibilities."
    — Venerable Master Hsin Yun in Let Go, Move On
  • "Humility is the key to wonder. As humility grows, wonder deepens. You will see yourself as a temporary expression of God's infinite and timeless unfolding. Aware of your impermanence, you become brother and sister to all life. You realize the common fate of all beings and find in that realization a compassion that embraces all beings."
    — Rami Shapiro in The Sacred Art of Lovingkindness
  • "Humility is not one virtue among others, but an attitude by which we stand on the ground alongside things. From this position we can be reconciled with all things and begin a truly cosmic democracy."
    — Leonardo Boff in Living the Wisdom of St. Francis by Wayne Simsic
  • "You gave me those words in a sermon of Father Huvelin's which are now so indelibly engraved on my soul: 'May you so truly have taken the lowest place that no one will ever be able to take it from you.' "
    — Charles de Foucauld in Charles de Foucauld: Writings selected by Robert Ellsberg
  • "Humility
    Not thinking less of yourself.
    Thinking of yourself less often."
    — Brian L in Meeting Wisdom
  • "Humility is the realization that not everything that happens in life is all about you. Things may work out well, but you may not have been the primary reason for their success. Things may fail, but the failure may not have been your fault."
    — Harold Kushner in Overcoming Life's Disappointments
  • "Humility is an attitude of honesty with God, oneself, and of all reality. It enables us to be at peace in the presence of our powerlessness and to rest in the forgetfulness of self."
    — Thomas Keating in The Sun and the Moon over Assisi by Gerard Thomas Straub
  • "Living the gift of meekness ... means sinking more and more deeply into the gentle humbleness of Christ, in whom God mysteriously self-emptied, until that humbleness becomes second nature; humbly refusing to put ourselves before others, not out of false modesty, but from genuine gratitude for our essential poverty; turning the other cheek, not out of timidity, but from the knowledge that God's power and freedom is expressed in our patient forbearance; and owning up to our own helplessness."
    — Kerry Walters in Merciful Meekness
  • "Humility is the disposition to view oneself as basically equal with any other human being even if there are objective differences in physical beauty, wealth, social skills, intelligence, or other resources. … It is the ability to keep one's talents and accomplishments in perspective, to have a sense of self-acceptance, an understanding of one's imperfections, and to be free from arrogance and low self esteem."
    — Janis Abrahms Spring in How Can I Forgive You?
  • "Humility frees us up to use all our gifts and talents to the best of our abilities by enabling us to accept our limitations and vulnerabilities as well as our strengths. With humility we can enjoy our achievements without unnecessary ego-inflation or -deflation; we are neither full of ourselves nor do we pick ourselves apart. And being humble doesn't mean that we stop trying to better ourselves. We are all works in progress!"
    — Estelle Frankel in Sacred Therapy
  • "There is no possibility of a mature spiritual life without humility. Nor is it possible to be a successful human being without it. Humility is also, most fundamentally, a relationship of truth with ourselves. Humility begins with self-honesty about our actions, attitudes, and speech. It compels us to accept the fact that we are capable of being wrong, perhaps even when we are convinced we are right. It means that we acknowledge our mistakes, not years from now, but when they are made.
    "We must be willing to own up to these mistakes before others and not simply ourselves. Such humility is a basic operating principle of ordinary life. Without it, we can hardly move at all, since the mystical process is based on honesty and humility of heart. Search your experience and examine if humility is at work in you."
    — Wayne Teasdale in The Mystic Hours