The first characteristic of a child and that which first strikes us is his littleness. In the supernatural order we must likewise first of all recognize our littleness. Amen I say to you, unless you be converted and become as little children, you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven (Mt. 18.3). This is the disposition that characterizes our true condition and puts us in our right place before God. To be little spiritually means to be humble. Littleness, however, implies a certain simplicity, an effective note of self-effacement in a pleasing and gracious manner.
To a sister who asked Therese what she meant by remaining a little child before God, she answered: “It means that we acknowledge our nothingness, await everything from the good Lord, refuse to attribute to ourselves the virtues we practice, but believe that we are incapable of doing anything that is good.” Note how this basic Christian disposition so opposes our response to the modern challenge: “Prove yourself.”
It is primarily because humility puts us in our right place, in our true condition, that St. Therese makes humility the basis of her Way – in fact, of an authentic Spiritual Life: “It seems to me that humility is truth. I don’t know whether I am humble, but I know I see the truth in all things.”
To that first reason she added another, and one that is truly Theresian. It is the fact, namely, that “it is proper to divine love to lower itself; hence, the lower we are, the more we attract God;” on the contrary, when we lift ourselves up we go counter to that movement of love.
Finally, St. Therese practiced humility out of love, to prove her love:
“To ravish Thee, quite little shall I remain;
Myself forgetting, I’ll charm Thy loving Heart.”
However, according to her, humility must not consist in the mere acceptance of our state of dependence and incapacity. We must love to see ourselves as we truly are. We must bear the imperfections that are inherent in our nature; be happy to see ever more clearly how wretched is our condition; we must even will to become ever more little.
To discover those deficiencies in ourselves does not mean that we have created them. They were in us but we had failed to notice them. Our discovery of them has only given us a better understanding of our true condition. Now, the better we know ourselves, accepting to see ourselves as truly are, and the more truthful we are with ourselves, the more pleasing shall we be to God; and we shall also be more ready for the workings of God’s merciful love.