“HUMILITY” HAS OFTEN been understood as involving self-abasement, low self-regard, and meekness. Merriam-Webster’s definition of humble refers to “a spirit of deference or submission.” It’s not surprising, with those meanings in mind, that the instruction to “be humble” has been used as a tool of oppression over the years against women and marginalized people—a not-so-subtle call to “stay in your place” and not rock the boat.
But, as author Pearl Maria Barros explains in this issue, the Christian virtue of humility has nothing to do with being passive or subservient—that’s “false humility.” True humility entails recognizing that our skills and talents are gifts from God, meant to be used for the greater good. We are called to use our gifts and our privilege not for self-aggrandizement but to engage in the task of building a more just society. That kind of humility, Barros explains, contains a truth with the power to change the world.