chapter  8
12 Pages

The humble place of humility in Reinhold Niebuhr’s ethics

WithJodie L. Lyon

Humility for Reinhold Niebuhr involves confessing one’s sin God and being truly sorrowful for the ways in which one has engaged in acts of injustice and domination due to prideful self-curvature. Humility is necessary because it is the breaking down of pride, the fundamental human sin and barrier to the achievement of ethical action and the instilling of the higher virtues. Human beings are creatures, and to be humble in Niebuhr’s understanding is to have a proper understanding of our own accompanying limitations. A quick word search on some of Niebuhr’s most important texts confirms that Niebuhr speaks very little about the virtue of humility while talking about pride and love quite often. Many of the references in Niebuhr’s work to humility are warnings that much of what masquerades as humility is really pride in disguise. Humility, as we know it, is often false or insincere.