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So I was reading Holiness of Life by St. Bonaventure earlier, and when I came to the chapter on humility, I found his language to be a bit startling. He says we should regard our "worthlessness" and regard ourselves as "the slime of the earth." I don't understand how this is a compatible (or healthy) attitude when we consider that we're made in the image and likeness of God, and God doesn't make anyone who is worthless or "slime." Is there something here that I'm missing? We should obviously attribute the good things in our lives to God, because they're all gifts and graces, but going so far as to call oneself worthless or regarding oneself as "slime" seems really extreme to me (no offense meant to St. Bonaventure). Hopefully this doesn't sound disrespectful.

Could someone clarify this for me? Am I reading it out of context?
I think the point is humility, to see ourselves as ultimately continent beings and at the mercy of God for everything.  The danger is if we already have self esteem issues and start beating ourselves up unnecessarily.  We must be careful that our religious lives don't become religious pathology and a cover for mental illness in one direction or another.

That you feel uncomfortable with how he writes shows to me you have a fairly healthy self image and are probably on the right track.
(03-04-2017, 08:12 AM)formerbuddhist Wrote: [ -> ]I think the point is humility, to see ourselves as ultimately continent beings and at the mercy of God for everything.  The danger is if we already have self esteem issues and start beating ourselves up unnecessarily.  We must be careful that our religious lives don't become religious pathology and a cover for mental illness in one direction or another.

That you feel uncomfortable with how he writes shows to me you have a fairly healthy self image and are probably on the right track.

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That's a relief. I felt strange having a problem with his writings on this topic since he's a saint, although he wasn't canonized at the time of writing this. I just have problems when people denigrate themselves to the extreme in the name of humility. I feel like it needs to be balanced. We were made from dust and without God we could do nothing, but God also breathed a soul into us (as my local priest said on Ash Wednesday during his sermon, He "loved life into us") and gave us a purpose. It's good not to be puffed up, but it's also good not to call what God made "worthless," "slime," or other very negative things.

Thank you for your feedback.
(03-04-2017, 03:22 PM)In His Love Wrote: [ -> ]That's a relief. I felt strange having a problem with his writings on this topic since he's a saint, although he wasn't canonized at the time of writing this. I just have problems when people denigrate themselves to the extreme in the name of humility. I feel like it needs to be balanced. We were made from dust and without God we could do nothing, but God also breathed a soul into us (as my local priest said on Ash Wednesday during his sermon, He "loved life into us") and gave us a purpose. It's good not to be puffed up, but it's also good not to call what God made "worthless," "slime," or other very negative things.

Thank you for your feedback.

Just because someone's been canonized doesn't mean that what they write, especially in translation from their native language, is easy to read, easy to comprehend, or free from cultural biases and perspectives that seem strange to us. Smile

(03-04-2017, 06:57 AM)In His Love Wrote: [ -> ]So I was reading Holiness of Life by St. Bonaventure earlier, and when I came to the chapter on humility, I found his language to be a bit startling. He says we should regard our "worthlessness" and regard ourselves as "the slime of the earth." I don't understand how this is a compatible (or healthy) attitude when we consider that we're made in the image and likeness of God, and God doesn't make anyone who is worthless or "slime." Is there something here that I'm missing? We should obviously attribute the good things in our lives to God, because they're all gifts and graces, but going so far as to call oneself worthless or regarding oneself as "slime" seems really extreme to me (no offense meant to St. Bonaventure). Hopefully this doesn't sound disrespectful.

Could someone clarify this for me? Am I reading it out of context?

From the perspective of humility, you can look at this language as the need to accept humiliation in this world as the key to remainjng lowly and humble, and avoiding the pride and vain glory that can lead to the Loss of your soul.  The desires of ego and for the praises of this world can lead one astray.  Our lord was despised - but his kingdom was not of this world. It is said that the devil could care not if you are sexually immoral if you suffer from pride and vanity in this world... his own great sin was pride.    This world has put material riches and superficial beauty above god - along with hedonistic and self serving pursuits. To see oneself as Humiliated to this world, as slime, as worthless, indifferent  to the cares and pageantry that this world holds as precious, keeps one closer to salvation.
True humility is seeing ourselves exactly as we truly are. No more, no less. The Bible tells us that God formed us from the "slime of the earth" and breathed life into us. We do not have worth despite being made from the dust of the earth, rather we have our worth precisely because God made us from the earth and chose to share His Life with us. Without God's life-giving breath we would only be dirt, it is God living and working within us that is our true value and our cooperation is our perfection.
I struggle with self esteem issues and I often feel like I'm being prideful or vain when I am confident.

How can I know?
I also find reading any monastics to be somewhat difficult. That's because their works are, with some exceptions, targeted towards other monastics. While we can still apply many of the things that they talk about, we also need to understand that a monastic or priest would have different standards of piety than a lay person.
(03-05-2017, 12:10 PM)GangGreen Wrote: [ -> ]I also find reading any monastics to be somewhat difficult. That's because their works are, with some exceptions, targeted towards other monastics. While we can still apply many of the things that they talk about, we also need to understand that a monastic or priest would have different standards of piety than a lay person.

That's a good point.  Keeping our state in life in perspective is always wise.  The Ladder of Divine Ascent,say, is not exactly appropriate for a layman, neither is the Philokalia.
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