Humility and Faith

Doubt is hell in the human soul.

—Comtesse Catherine de Gasparin

When it comes to pursuing greatness, here is the no-one-is-looking confessional where most of us begin:

I don’t know if I have greatness within me.

I don’t know the way to greatness.

I don’t know, if I try to be great, whether I’ll disappoint myself, or others for the first time or again.

And because of all of this—because of what I don’t know—I’m afraid I will fail.

Okay, thank you for the confession. It is both honest and human.

And now that we’re all human, and we can be self-accepting and other-accepting for our shared fallible humanity, and that we’ve gotten the above out of the way, we can make progress.

Fears have only the power we give them.

When we refuse to address our fears, we give them our address.

A great person is anyone who is making an effort to be a better person.

Fear is an instructor of great sagacity, and the herald of all revolutions.

—R. W. Emerson

Denying our fears does not dismiss them. Rather, on the journey to greatness, the challenge is to find a way to use our fears as fuel. Admitting and embracing our fears robs them of their fire even as it turns them into fuel to stoke our fires..

Faith and doubt both are needed—not as antagonists, but working side by side—to take us around the unknown curve.

—Lillian Smith

Doubt and fear are not to be denied. They are the sacred soil where humility finds seed.

In every part of the world, humility is the doorway to every spiritual sanctuary, the step before every first step on the journey to greatness.

In order to take a breath, we have to release our breath. In order to be more, we must be prepared to be less. Allowing this gives us a chance to catch our breath and allows us to be filled with something greater than ourselves. And acknowledging this is the step before the first step on the journey to greatness.

The great act of faith is when a man decides he is not God.

—Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

Hundreds may believe, but each has to believe by himself.

—W. H. Auden

Faith is to believe what you do not yet see; the reward for this faith is to see what you believe.

—St. Augustine

There has never been a time when people were aware of more and knew less. Even though we live in the Information Age, the accumulation of information is not knowledge. To find wisdom we have only to go in search of our ignorance. Accepting this, we access our humility and are liberated to learn. Denying this, we are enslaved by our hubris. Scripture reminds us that “pride goes before . . . a fall,” and with hubris the fall comes pretty quickly.

Knowing how little we know, and knowing the fears born from what we don’t know, and knowing these two truths are linked are essential to finding our way to greatness. On the road to greatness, we will fall less often if we don’t presume we won’t fall. We all make mistakes; greatness generally asks only that we make new ones.

Even as we are usually privately and publicly in denial about how little we know, we also know this to be true. And this mountain of denial that we have swept beneath the carpet is the first mountain each of us has to climb on the journey to greatness. Unfortunately, what keeps most of us from starting out on the trek to greatness is a fear of what lies ahead. But if our fear of not knowing keeps us from trying, then failing is assured. That there is much we don’t know and that we have fears are the only assurance any of us has when we begin the journey to greatness.

Not Truth, but Faith it is that keeps the world alive.

—Edna St. Vincent Millay

Two doubts never abandon us: not knowing if there is greatness within us and fearing we lack the capacity to achieve greatness. Great men and women experience these doubts all the time and are greater for it.


Noah benShea

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