What in the world is “destructive humility?” I thought humility was a virtue.
Many books are being published these days and interviews with authors are flooding podcasts and news features. Often the interviewer will ask: “And just what did you mean when you wrote ______?” We wondered, just what did Brother Roger mean when he wrote about destructive humility? He wrote: "This destructive humility is a road of anguish; it refuses the peace of Christ."
I don’t profess to know what went on in Brother Roger's mind while he was journaling, but in my mind, I think destructive humility might be more common than we think. I remember a woman at a retreat who, while giving a talk about how blessed she was, said, “I am so proud of all the many virtues I have, especially patience and humility.”
It seems to me that Jesus referred to destructive humility often in the gospels – or skirting around the issue as he often did, leaving it up to us to really “get it”! He told a story about foolish virgins with no oil in their lamps, about guys parading around in white robes, and people who did not feed, clothe, visit, nor care for others in need.
Paul, in his usual dualism, wrote that you were either children of the light or children of the dark. Don’t we all know someone who in the daytime appears to be patient and pious, helpful and humble – but in the darkness engages in feckless behavior, even risking destruction of a career, marriage, or relationship with God? You could say that these people generally are on the road of anguish.
The counter of destructive humility is “holy pride” as Joseph Tetlow, SJ often wrote and spoke about. Holy pride does not boast or self-aggrandize. Rather, holy pride is saying wholly and entirely YES to God, the creator and giver of all that is beautiful, pure, and wondrous. If we embrace holy pride, we attribute all that we are and have to the Beneficent One and in return give all our being back to God. Practicing holy pride, acknowledges and humbly accepts grace-full gifts, especially the peace of Christ. "Inner peace is such a great gift that it is worth sacrificing even a little self-satisfaction." (Brother Roger, p. 68)