“Humility says, 'How can I serve you?' Hubris says, 'Here’s how you fix yourself.' ” (Gregory Boyle, SJ)

“Hubris is a hard word. It’s worse than pride. To the ancient Greeks, hubris was a breaching of limits that had been set by the gods and usually brought swift punishment. Icarus tumbled into the sea when he ignored instructions and flew too close to the sun. In the Bible, hubris is pride mingled with cruelty. It’s arrogant contempt for the rights of others. The biblical proverb, ‘pride goes before destruction’ is talking about hubris.

“So it’s a bit startling that the Jesuit Greg Boyle, founder of the Homeboy ministries to gangs in Los Angeles, says it’s hubris to tell troubled people what they need to do to fix themselves. After all, this happens all the time. Whole professions, whole bureaucracies, are devoted to telling people what they should do to straighten themselves out. You’ve probably done it yourself.

“What’s needed instead is humility, asking: How can I serve you? It respects other people. It acknowledges limits; we don’t really know how someone else should live. Hubris is telling people what they ought to do. Humility is sharing a life with them.”