One of the things I find fascinating about Special Forces guys in the US Military is that they are usually soft-spoken. One of the things I find fascinating about fully-certifiable narcissists is that they are always the opposite: Whereas narcissists frequently speak about themselves in a self-centered manner, they secretly have extremely low self-confidence.
So, what is the relationship between self-confidence and humility? The pious answer goes like this: “One should have confidence in God, not oneself.” While this is true, it does not take into consideration the difficult balance that St. Thomas Aquinas makes between magnanimity and humility. In the Second Part of the Second Part his Summa Theologiae, St. Thomas Aquinas writes:
- Pride is the “inordinate desire of one’s own excellence.”—Q 162.
- “Magnanimity urges the mind to great things in accord with right reason. Hence it is clear that magnanimity is not opposed to humility: indeed they concur in this, that each is according to right reason.”—II-II, q. 161, a.1, ad 3.
- “Magnanimity makes a man deem himself worthy of great things in consideration of the gifts he holds from God: thus if his soul is endowed with great virtue, magnanimity makes him tend to perfect works of virtue; and the same is to be said of the use of any other good, such as knowledge or external fortune. On the other hand, humility makes a man think little of himself in consideration of his own deficiency.”—II-II, q. 129, a.3, ad 4.
The key to remember here is that recusing oneself from great acts is either true or false humility. The Apostle Paul wrote this shocking line: I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me.—1 Cor 15:10. There is no lack of humility in his giving all glory to God, but neither can he deny his hard work (even in comparison to other Apostles!) It all lines up with what St. Thomas Aquinas wrote above, “Magnanimity makes a man deem himself worthy of great things in consideration of the gifts he holds from God.” The second clause of that sentence from St. Thomas reminds us that the goal for the Christian is cooperation with grace. But such cooperation with the grace of Jesus Christ also requires free-will and generosity, as seen in the first clause. Thus, it is not “Pelagianism” (ie earning your way to heaven in a denial of grace) to return back to Christ the love He lived for us on the cross unto the point of death.
St. Teresa of Avila wrote, “Christ has no body now, but yours. No hands, no feet on earth but yours. Yours are the eyes through which he looks compassion on this world. Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good. Yours are the hands through which He blesses all the world. Yours are the hands, yours are the feet, yours are the eyes, you are His body. Christ has no body now on earth but yours.”
If you’ve been given gifts by God, He requires you to use them. (See Lk 12:48 and Mt 25:14-30.)