Ninth Step of Humility

The ninth step of humility is that a monk controls his tongue and remains silent, not speaking unless asked a question, for Scripture warns, “In a flood of words you will not avoid sinning,” and “A talkative man goes about aimlessly on earth.” Rule of St. Benedict

Silence and a certain amount of solitude are indispensable, according to Saint Benedict and the ancient monastic fathers, in order to pursue an authentic spiritual life.  The voice of God can almost never be heard, except in deep silence and profound solitude.  If Saint Benedict insists on the practice of silence as a means of achieving true humility, it is because he knows human nature.  He knows the proud love no assert themselves, love to hear themselves speaking.  How often we find ourselves in the middle of a conversation, anxious for the other person to end a sentence so that we can interject our own opinion.  We sometimes don’t even bother listening to what the other has to say.  All we wish is to make ourselves heard.  It is against such human temptations as pride, self-assertion, self-preference, and self-opinion that Saint Benedict counsels control over our tongues and the practice of silence.  In paraphrasing the words of another great desert figure, Saint John the Baptist, the decreasing of the self in us is directly proportional to the increasing of the life of God within us.  This is the wisdom and eternal paradox of the Gospels, authenticated throughout the ages by the example of the saints.

Brother Victor-Antoine d’Avilia-Latourrette
Blessings of the Daily, A Monastic Book of Days

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