Wednesday, July 18, 2012

New Humility

    But what we suffer from to-day is humility in the wrong place. Modesty has moved
from the organ of ambition. Modesty has settled upon the organ of conviction; where it was
never meant to be. A man was meant to be doubtful about himself, but undoubting about
the truth; this has been exactly reversed. Nowadays the part of a man that a man does assert
is exactly the part he ought not to assert himself. The part he doubts is exactly the part he
ought not to doubt—the Divine Reason. Huxley preached a humility content to learn from
Nature. But the new sceptic is so humble that he doubts if he can even learn. Thus we should
be wrong if we had said hastily that there is no humility typical of our time. The truth is that
there is a real humility typical of our time; but it so happens that it is practically a more
poisonous humility than the wildest prostrations of the ascetic. The old humility was a spur
that prevented a man from stopping; not a nail in his boot that prevented him from going
on. For the old humility made a man doubtful about his efforts, which might make him
work harder. But the new humility makes a man doubtful about his aims, which will make
him stop working altogether.

G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy,  1908

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