Benedict’s Twelve Steps of Humility

In an early church history class I am currently teaching we are going through Benedict’s Rules for his monasteries. I found his steps in humility very intriguing. I edited them a bit–changing from third person to second person. Do you think he went about humility the right way?

1) Always have the fear of God before his eyes (cf. Ps. 36:2)

2) Love not your own will, nor be pleased to fulfill your own desires but by your deeds carry the Lord’s will (John 6:38)

3) For the love of God, subject yourself to a Superior in all obedience, imitating the Lord (Phil. 2:8).

4) If hard and distasteful things are commanded, nay, even though injuries are inflicted, accept them with patience and even temper, and do not grow weary or give up, but hold out (Mt. 10:22).

5) Do hide from others your evil thoughts which rise in your heart or the evils committed by you in secret, but humbly confess them (Ps. 106:1; 118:1)

6) Be content with the meanest and worst of everything, and in all that is enjoined him hold yourself as a bad and worthless workman (Ps. 73:22-23).

7) Not only with your tongue declare, but also in your inmost soul believe, that you are the lowest and vilest of men, humbling yourself (Ps. 22:7)

8) Do nothing but what is sanctioned by the common rule of the community and the example of your elders.

9) Withhold your tongue from speaking, and keep silence. Do not speak until you are asked (Prov. 10:19)

10) Do not be easily moved and quick for laughter (Sir. 21:23)

11) Speak gently and without laughter, humbly and with gravity, with few and sensible words, and be not loud of voice, as it is written: “The wise man is known by the fewness of his words.”[1]

12) Be not only humble of heart, but always let it appear also in your whole exterior to all that see you—at the Work of God, in the garden, on a journey, in the field, or wherever you may be, sitting, walking, or standing, always have your head bowed down, your eyes fixed on the ground, ever holding yourself guilty of your sins, thinking that you are already standing before the dread judgment seat of God, and always saying to yourself in your heart what the publican in the Gospel said, with his eyes fixed on the ground (Luke 18:13); (Ps. 38:7-9; 119:107).

In summary, upon passing through these steps of humility you will presently arrive at that love of God, which being perfect, casts out fear (1 John 4:18).

 


[1]There is no scripture reference given, but it is assumed that Benedict uses Proverbs’ myriad instructions to inform his dictum—Prov. 15:2; 17:27-28.

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