22 November 1955
A certain wise staretz admonished a brother for being proud, but the brother answered: 'Excuse me, father, I am not proud'. The wise staretz rejoined: 'How could you demonstrate more clearly that you are proud than by saying, "I am not proud"?'
Yes, pride is blind; it does not see itself. Pride is the devil's invention. Its offspring are: anger, slander, irritability, hypocrisy, envy, contradiction, recalcitrance. It strongly insists on its own opinion, has difficulty in submitting to others, cannot stand criticism, but loves to criticize others, throws out words senselessly; it has no patience, is a stranger to love; is insolent to the point of insult, strives for power. The proud suffer very much from blasphemous thoughts. I have written briefly, on the basis of the teaching of the Holy Fathers.
Now I shall tell about humility.
O, blessed humility, Thou art divine, for Thou didst bow the heavens and clothe
Thyself in humanity and nail the sins of the whole world to the Cross. My soul
trembles; how can I say anything about thy greatness?
Here is what men of godly wisdom said about humility: it gives rise to meekness, affability, tender feeling, compassion, quietness, obedience. A humble man is not curious about incomprehensible things, but a proud man wants to investigate the depth of God's dispensations. A humble person does not take credit for his natural endowments and he shuns people's praise. Just as a man dressed in silk clothes jumps aside if tar is spattered on him, so as not to dirty his precious clothing, so also a humble man flees from human glory.
It is characteristic of humility to see one's own sins but to see the good qualities in others. It is characteristic of pride, on the other hand, to see only the good in oneself and only what is bad in others. Here are other features of humility: simplicity, frankness, naturalness. But what humility is and how it is born in the soul no one can explain in words unless a person learns it from experience. It cannot be learnt from words alone.
Once Abba Zosima was speaking about humility and a learned sophist who had listened to him said to the staretz: 'How can you consider yourself a sinner, do you not know that you are holy? Do you not know that you have virtues? Surely you see how you fulfil the commandments, and do you think that you are a sinner?' The staretz did not find anything to say and only replied: 'I do not know what to say to you, but I regard myself as a sinner'. The sophist insisted, wanting to find out how this could be. Then the staretz was again at a loss for words and said in his holy simplicity: 'Do not confuse me; I really regard myself so'. Abba Dorotheos was there too and he explained this to the sophist: 'Just as in the sciences there are certain ways which cannot be explained, so also there are in humility'. Abba Zosima embraced him and said: 'You have understood the matter; it is just as you said'. The sophist was satisfied and agreed with them [Dorotheos, p. 100].
I have put down only a little of the great deal that has been written. If you want to know more and in detail, you can read it in the Philokalia. "