Review: Humilitas

  • Sumo

HumilitasHumilitas by John Dickson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I enjoyed this book, which I’d assess as the popular and practical history of an idea.

The idea, of course, is that humility is a human virtue.

The book is a history, because that’s John Dickson’s ‘way in’ to thinking about humility. (As he admits, his expertise is not primarily experiential!) The history stems, I gather, from a research project the author was part of.

It’s popular, because the level of the book does not require extensive background or specialist knowledge. If Dickson thinks some more tech-o knowledge is required, he gives both vocabulary and explanation. The popular-level of the writing is also evident in the easy-reading illustrations and hypotheticals. Dickson gives plenty of chance for us to say, ‘Oh, I get what he means.’

Humilitas is also practical, for Dickson actively urges adoption of this way of life. Even I picked up the subtle hint of the final chapter’s title ‘Steps: How It’s Possible to Become (More) Humble’.

There’s something this book isn’t. It’s not an exercise in simply leveraging a topic so it ends up saying, ‘And therefore you should become a Christian.’ Dickson openly writes as a Christian believer. The strong argument is that Jesus is the reason cultures not commend, not condemn, humility. But there’s no appeal to change from ignoring Jesus to trusting him.

This appraoch is intriguing to me. It raises fascinating questions for which I have no good answers. For example, is Dickson being nothing other than open and welcoming, so that anyone can ‘learn’ humility? Or is he letting people down by not urging them more strongly towards Jesus, the source of humility? Is this approach disarmingly open, or is it subtly manipulative?

These questions have nothing to do with the integrity of the author! They are my questions, and arise because Christian faith is a whole-of-life/whole-of-reality matter. With such a big picture faith, is it possible to communicate in an open and neutral manner?

Whatever answers we find to these questions, this is definitely a book to enjoy, and to share, because it will spark all sorts of wonderful conversations.

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